Regaining Your Strength After COVID-19

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If you’re struggling to get back into your daily routine following your COVID-19 illness, you are not alone. The St. Elizabeth Healthcare rehabilitation team knows that COVID-19 recovery can take time – one day you’re feeling like yourself again, and the next you can barely get out of bed.

At St. Elizabeth, we saw a need in our community for additional support during the lengthy COVID-19 recovery process. We created the St. Elizabeth COVID-19 Recovery Program to offer supportive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language services to recovering patients who need extra help.

Our COVID-19 recovery team works together to help you return to your life pre-COVID – or to help you safely adapt and adjust if permanent changes have occurred. Our team of specialists from different rehabilitation services work together to quickly identify specific areas of your life that are impacted by COVID-19. We work with you to set goals that will help strengthen your well-being and quickly improve your quality of life.  

Post-COVID Recovery: How Can Physical Therapy Help?

Physical therapy offers a tremendous benefit to those recovering from a COVID-19 diagnosis. Many patients struggle with muscle loss, either due to prolonged hospitalization or an extended period of rest at home. Other patients have experienced long-term issues with breathing, dizziness and balance.

“We’ve been working with patients who experience shortness of breath for weeks to months after COVID-19,” says Casey Geiman Bennett, Physical Therapist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “Our recovery team works with patients on breathing techniques and energy conservation, all while following a specific program designed to improve endurance in post-COVID-19 patients.”

Physical therapy services that benefit our COVID-19 patients include:

  • Balance/proprioceptive interventions.
  • Breathing strategies with endurance training.
  • Strength training.

For some, simply walking to the mailbox without assistance is the goal. For others, returning to the gym, a running group or training for a race is their sole focus. Physical therapy helps to address your individual needs and gets you back to your active lifestyle.

“Ultimately, recovery from COVID-19 is different for everyone,” says Casey. “Many patients struggle with long-lasting symptoms following their illness. We’re here to help.”

Post-COVID Recovery: How Can Occupational Therapy Help?

Many patients are frustrated at their lack of energy and inability to jump back into their daily routine. Occupational therapy teaches new skills and modifications to help ease you back into your schedule.

“Our focus in occupational therapy is to help you get back to doing things that you need to do, want to do, or have to do in your life,” says Maria Salomone, Occupational Therapist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. We work together on increasing your energy levels but also offering modifications to daily activities to make them achievable.”

Occupational therapy focuses on a few key aspects while recovering from COVID-19:

  • Pacing – laying out your day’s tasks in order to determine what needs to be done, including rest breaks, timing and energy requirements.
  • Plan ahead – determining what points of the day you have your highest and lowest energy – and organizing your tasks around those times.
  • Simplifying the work – helping you to streamline your tasks to get them done using as little energy as possible.

“One of our most simple yet helpful recommendations is to sit instead of stand. For example, when you are doing your morning routine – washing your face, brushing your teeth and hair,” says Maria. “It takes less energy than standing, and you can get it all done with energy left over.”

From smaller goals like showering and getting dressed to larger achievements like cleaning and cooking for your family, occupational therapy will help you meet the needs of your daily life – with the energy you have.

Post-COVID Recovery: How Can Speech Therapy?

At first glance, you might wonder how speech therapy ties into COVID-19 recovery. It is an essential piece in the recovery process. Speech therapy is especially beneficial for patients who were intubated or have experienced “COVID brain” – the fog and inability to concentrate that many patients struggle with – even months after their illness.  

“Our end goal is working with you to get you back to your prior level of function,” says Kendra Armstrong, Speech-Language Pathologist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “However, the recovery process can take a long time, and sometimes it’s important to break the goals down into smaller, achievable steps.”

Speech therapy services can address many different aspects of a COVID-19 diagnosis:  

  • Cognition – memory, problem-solving, focus, attention, and organization.
  • Communication deficits – talking, reading, comprehension, and writing.
  • Dysphagia – swallowing difficulty.

“Many patients come to see us and wonder, ‘why speech therapy, I talk fine!’” says Kendra. “But speech therapy is so much more, especially for recovering COVID-19 patients. We directly address the ‘feeling a little foggy’ and being ‘slower to think’ side effects that many experience following their illness.”

Speech therapy can also help you develop and use strategies to improve COVID-19 related deficiencies and maximize your independence.

St. Elizabeth: Your COVID-19 Recovery Partner

No matter where you are in your COVID-19 recovery, if you are having difficulty getting back into your daily routine or feeling like yourself again, we’re here to help. For more information on the St. Elizabeth COVID-19 Recovery Program, visit stelizabeth.com/PostCOVIDCare or talk to your primary care physician and request a referral.

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health – and COVID-19 takes a toll on both. Our COVID-19 recovery team can provide a referral to Activating Hope if you need a little extra mental health support during your recovery.