Delirium may be an early warning sign of Covid-19 infection in older adults, a new study has found. In some cases, it was the only symptom in patients who tested positive for the virus. More than one-fourth of older patients in the study arrived at hospital emergency rooms with delirium, and 37% of these patients had no typical Covid-19 signs, such as fever or shortness or breath.

Delirium — confusion, inattention, disorientation, and other cognitive change — is a common sign of any infection in older people, whose immune systems respond differently to viral or bacterial illnesses than younger adults’. Patients hospitalized for Covid-19, especially if they need ventilators to help them breathe in intensive care units, are known to be vulnerable to delirium, a risk that research has shown can be augmented by the isolation imposed to limit coronavirus spread.

Identifying delirium as a Covid-19 symptom in patients before they are admitted to a hospital could be important to protect others from infection. It could also be critical for their care because in general, patients with delirium from any cause are more likely to fare worse than other patients. They suffer more severe disease, they stay in the hospital longer, and they are more likely to die. If they survive, they are more likely to need care in a rehabilitation facility and the need for Home Care Services after their hospitalization. These elderly clients also are at high risk for institutionalize/ Nursing home placement due to debility from COVID infection and hospitalization. The client returning to their home setting with Home Care Services can improve their recovery and overall outcomes.

Being aware of the potential symptoms of COVID infection in your love can help them and the individuals caring for them.