Delirium Affects, Horrifies Many COVID-19 Patients

Survivors of all ages are dealing with hallucinations, confusion
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2020 7:31 PM CDT
Delirium Affects, Horrifies Many COVID-19 Patients
Jean Bongo Kinkela, 61, right, a former COVID-19 patient, works out in a physical rehabilitation ward Friday in Liege, Belgium. He was in a coma in the ICU for three weeks and spent two months overall in the hospital.   (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

(Newser) – A 31-year-old COVID-19 patient saw herself being attacked by cats. That happened after she was being experimented on in a Japanese lab. Before that, she'd felt herself on fire, unable to move and frightened. "It was so real," she said. But it wasn't. Once thought to affect mostly older patients, often those with dementia, hospital delirium now is plaguing patients of all ages, the New York Times reports. More than two-thirds of coronavirus patients in ICU units could be affected, data indicates. The patients can suffer from paranoid hallucinations, agitation and confusion that leads them to become withdrawn. One woman broke down during occupational therapy, per Business Insider, distraught at her husband's death from the disease. But her husband was fine and was calling the hospital to check on her every day.

Families suffer, as well, after expecting their loved one to be well again. And patients think: "I just had a lung disease. Why am I crying? Why can't I think straight for more than five minutes?" one doctor said. "That's the part that's unexpected, and therefore particularly bothersome." Hospitals have begun to develop best practices to counter the effects on patients. Many realities of this disease increase the risk of delirium: social and physical isolation, heavy sedatives, lack of sleep—even dealing with caregivers whose faces are covered by masks. Hospital staffs also can do small things that can help ease the minds of patients, a physician said, such as putting a photo of themselves on their gowns. "People are so creative in times of crisis," she said. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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