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What Unusual COVID Symptoms are Seen in Seniors?

Largely asymptomatic seniors may experience a symptom not commonly associated with the coronavirus.

Over 25% of seniors admitted to emergency departments and eventually diagnosed with COVID-19 initially displayed symptoms of delirium, new research finds.

Money Talks News’s recent article entitled “Seniors With COVID-19 May Display This Unusual Symptom” reports that the study, which was in the November edition of the medical journal JAMA Network Open, also found that a delirium diagnosis was the main presenting symptom for 16% of these patients. Of those patients who initially displayed symptoms of delirium, 37% had no typical COVID-19 symptoms, like a fever or shortness of breath.

The surprising findings in the study suggest that delirium—a symptom not commonly associated with the coronavirus—may indicate the possible presence of the coronavirus in patients who otherwise don’t appear to have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.

Properly diagnosing COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is vitally important in older patients. Adults 65 years and older have accounted for more than 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., even though that age group accounts for just 16% of the U.S. population, according to Hebrew SeniorLife, a geriatric care organization affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

Delirium is a state of confusion characterized by several symptoms. Those most common among the patients in the study included impaired consciousness, disorientation, inattention and disorganized thinking.

In reaching their conclusions, researchers looked at 817 patients 65 or older who were admitted to one of seven emergency departments across the U.S. and diagnosed with COVID-19. Their average age was about 78.

The research should change how physicians evaluate older patients for possible coronavirus infection, says Dr. Sharon K. Inouye, senior author of the study, director of the Aging Brain Center at Hebrew SeniorLife, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School:

“This study demonstrates that delirium is not only a common symptom of COVID-19, but also may be the leading and possibly sole symptom in older persons. Thus, delirium should be considered an important presenting symptom of COVID-19.”

The researchers also found that while delirium is a common symptom in older adults with severe disease who visit the emergency department, it goes undetected in about two-thirds of all cases.

Delirium is just one of the unusual symptoms that seniors display when they’re infected with the coronavirus, researchers say.

Reference: Money Talks News (Nov. 20, 2020) “Seniors With COVID-19 May Display This Unusual Symptom”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Elder Care, Caregiving, Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

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