Long-Haulers and Occupation - A Call to Action
The headlines read ‘Long-Haulers with Painful Symptoms’. When I first read the term ‘long-hauler’ in relation to Covid-19, it made no sense to me. My first thought was how do long distance truck drivers and Covid-19 go together? After further reading I discovered that for approximately 10% of individuals who have been ill with severe or mild Covid-19, also report lingering symptoms over many months; they are called ‘long-haulers’. Medical researchers do not yet understand the why or the mechanism, but it is real and it is frightening. The most often reported symptoms include overwhelming and debilitating fatigue impacting the ability to do usual daily living tasks, painful and laboured breathing, and brain fog are the most reported symptoms.
So, how do people describe their daily life as a long-hauler? A year into the pandemic, a CBC podcast highlighted a story of a woman in British Columbia where she describes what it feels like as to be a Covid-19 long-hauler. She is and is still suffering the symptoms a year after recovering from Covid-19. Listen to what she has to say. https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-63-the-current/clip/15830366-b.c.-woman-still-sick-contracting-covid-19-year-ago. One of the many things she shared was that “I can’t do what I want to do. I can’t do what I need to do.”
Lately there have been calls for care beyond the current focus on acute and preventative (vaccine) care for those individuals who are trying to recover from the lingering symptoms of Covid-19. Without more dedicated resources, many long-haul Covid-19 patients will be left navigating the health care system on their own, seeking care for an array of symptoms — from extreme fatigue to neurological impairment. Clinicians have struggled with finding an assessment that can be used with long-haulers, given the variation in individual experiences. A common thread is occupation.
Earlier newsletters have presented views on the importance of occupation during the restrictions that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic1. However, occupation not only ‘feeds the soul’, but occupation can also enable improved ability for Covid-19 long-haulers. Occupational therapists are the experts in understanding and using occupation to enhance everyday life with individuals who have occupational performance difficulties. They ‘teach’ energy conservation techniques to help deal with fatigue. They enable clients to manage personal self-care, leisure and productivity2 through occupational assessments such as the COPM, which requires clients to identify what “they want to do, need to do, or are expected to do”, and then determine their goals for occupational therapy intervention. As client-centered occupational therapists, dedicated to enabling our clients to be able to do what they want to do, need to or expected to do, we need to see the identification of Covid-19 long-haulers as a call to action! Let’s respond!
P.S. We welcome sharing your experiences with Covid-19 long-haulers!
1 November ‘20, December ‘20, February ‘21 and March ‘21
2 productivity includes paid work, unpaid work, household management, school and play.
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