Of the many lingering symptoms reported in patients with long COVID, more than 65 percent in one study reported brain fog.
Sarah Gromko is a speech-language pathologist with the Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network in Stratford. She works with COVID long-hauler patients who are experiencing brain fog, or difficulty concentrating and a diminished memory.
Speech-language pathologists evaluate and treat all aspects of people’s communication skills (comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, conversational skills, non-verbal communication) as well as cognitive-communication skills that can impair a person’s ability to communicate effectively (attention, memory, organization, reasoning, judgement).
When it comes to brain fog after COVID, Gromko is part of an inter-disciplinary team that treats many different after-effects of COVID, such as cardiology, pulmonology and respiratory therapy. She works with patients with brain fog using similar individualized techniques used for other disorders that affect cognitive communication.
“We use a lot of meta-therapy, basically teaching people how to teach themselves,” she said. “We use strategies on how to cope with their changing cognition and the way their brain is functioning differently now.”
Gromko’s patients with brain fog are not able to function the way they did prior to a COVID infection. Many of the patients are high functioning individuals, but have found it difficult to concentrate at work and struggle with processing new information.
“The best advice is to allow yourself to rest,” she said. “Allow your brain to rest when it needs it and when you can, exercise your brain and your body.”
For some people though, they have to learn how to do things differently than they did prior to infection.
“A lot of our patients never had to write notes down to remember things,” she said. “One strategy we teach is to write things down, minimize distractions and focus on one thing at a time. It is about giving yourself the grace of processing things a little more carefully.”
While most people are juggling several things at once – work, kids, errands and more, Gromko advises that it is helpful to create a schedule and work on one task at a time.
“Things can get overwhelming and our brains will shut down if we put in too much information and can’t process it,” she noted. “You have to stop at some point because you will make yourself more tired by trying to force it.”