The Odd COVID Symptom that Some Seniors Have

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More than one-quarter of seniors admitted to emergency departments and eventually diagnosed with COVID-19 initially displayed symptoms of delirium, recent research has found.

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A study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open found that those seniors who have the coronavirus initially displayed symptoms of delirium.

A delirium diagnosis was the main presenting symptom for 16% of these patients, and those who initially displayed symptoms of delirium, 37% had no typical COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever or shortness of breath.

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “Some Seniors With COVID-19 Have This Unusual Symptom” notes that the surprising findings suggest that delirium — a symptom not commonly associated with COVID-19— may indicate the possible presence of the coronavirus in patients who otherwise don’t appear to have the common symptoms.

A proper diagnosis of COVID-19 is critical in older patients. Those 65 years and older have accounted for more than 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., even though that age group is just 16% of the U.S. population.

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

In reaching their conclusions, researchers examined 817 patients age 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 findings 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 authors of this research also say that while delirium is a common symptom in older adults with severe disease who visit an ER, it goes undetected in about two-thirds of all cases.