As the world continues to deal with the fallout of COVID-19 and how it has impacted the economy, health industry, and daily lives of billions of people, scientists are pointing out new evidence about the potential long term effects of COVID-19. Some COVID-19 survivors will never recover completely from a condition known as post-intensive-care-unit syndrome. Dr. Amy Bellinghausen, a pulmonary and critical care fellow at the University of California, San Diego, notes that it can produce long-term disabilities from muscle wasting, organ damage, brain damage, and PTSD.
One of the most common problems among ICU survivors is weakness and fatigue. “That whole time in the ICU, they’re losing muscle mass. People lose 20,30,40 pounds over a week or two.” Use of a ventilator, while necessary for survival, can also affect recovery. “Unfortunately, oftentimes when they’re coming off the ventilator, it’s not the same person who went on the ventilator,” Bellinghausen says. As a result, daily actiivites that many of us take for granted – walking a pet, going up a flight of stairs, doing household chores – become exceedingly difficult.
Many COVID-19 patients will also have organ damage, which can be caused by the virus itself, or the extreme measures used to keep them alive. This can lead to scarring in the lungs, impaired kidney function, or damage to other organs as well. The brain is especially vulnerable. That’s partly because the drugs used to sedate patients while on a ventilator can have lasting effects on memory and thinking. Also, COVID-19 patients whose lungs are badly impaired in the ICU tend to have low oxygen levels, which can also cause brain damage.
On the psychological side, patients delirious from fever or sedation can feel trapped in a hospital where they are connected to machines that have taken control of their bodily functions. They must avoid excessive movement, as it can unhook machines and tubes. In extreme cases, patients can be forcibly restrained. All that can contribute to paranoia and symptoms of PTSD.
Patients with life-threatening COVID-19 seem to be especially vulnerable to post-ICU syndrome, says Dr. Negin Hajizadeh, a pulmonary critical care doctor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra-Northwell in New York. One reason is that the severity of infection forces patients to spend weeks on a ventilator, not just days. “The longer you are on the breathing machine, the steeper the road to recovery,” Hajizadeh says.
As a result, many COVID-19 survivors will need months or years of rehabilitation. This is where long term disability insurance can help. Long-term disability benefits are intended to replace earned income for an extended period of time. While short-term disability benefits may expire after six months, long term disability benefits often last until retirement age (i.e., age 65 or older) or until you have sufficiently recovered so that you can return to work. The assumption of long-term disability coverage is that the long-term disability at-issue will not necessarily be fully resolved. If you do recover within a limited timeframe, then short-term disability benefits can assist during that time.
For example, if you contract COVID-19 in Houston or elsewhere, you may qualify for short and/or long-term disability insurance coverage. Insurers may attempt to lower their payouts by arguing that your health condition is such that you are only partially disabled, not fully disabled. If you are capable of working a lower-paying job, then the insurer will assert that you should work in the alternative position and they will pay out lower benefits or no benefits as a result. Some insurers may even argue that you are fully capable of working your job from home and thus are not disabled at all. With the aid of a skilled Houston long term disability lawyer, however, you can demonstrate that you are not able to work in your own occupation and are still qualified to receive full benefits. While the road to recovery may be arduous, it should not be complicated by the wrongful denial of long term disability benefits.
When going out in public in Harris County or elsewhere, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
If we can ever be of assistance with your disability claim, please contact us. We are all in this together.
*Information from interviews and other source material courtesy of National Public Radio.