Occupational therapy for COVID-19 patients in ICU

01 Aug 2020
As COVID-19 is a novel virus of which we have only experienced in the UK since January 2020, we do not yet fully understand the outcomes for patients. In particular, we are still to establish and identify the longer-term impacts for patients who have recovered from the virus. 
However, the knowledge we possess regarding recovery following critical illness from other respiratory conditions, lends substance to future rehabilitation planning.

A recent paper published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation outlines how rehabilitation can reduce the complications from COVID-19 by:
  1. Delivering interdisciplinary rehabilitation that is initiated early and continued throughout the acute hospital stay,
  2. Providing patient/family education for self-care after discharge from inpatient rehabilitation at either acute or subacute settings, and
  3. Continuing rehabilitation care in the outpatient setting, and at home through ongoing therapy either in-person or via telehealth.

A substantial burden of care on the recovering ICU patient relates to the deconditioning and neuromuscular weakness commonly noted. Research focused on the outcomes following critical illness pre-COVID-19 has demonstrated impairments in physical, cognitive and psychological domains which have a lasting impact on return to usual occupations and societal participation [3]. Participation is also known to impact on patients and families’ quality of life, increasing the informal and formal care needs with a resultant economic impact on individuals and on the state. This in turn impacts on people’s social determinants of health with potential consequences on their future health and their families.