“It was almost like it’s set up for people to fail” A qualitative analysis of experiences and unmet supportive needs of people with Long COVID
BMC Public Health
Background: Almost twenty percent of adults with COVID-19 develop Long COVID, leading to prolonged symptoms and disability. Understanding the supportive needs of people with Long COVID is vital to enacting effective models of care and policies. Design/methods: This qualitative sub-study explored the experiences of people with Long COVID and their unmet needs. Participants enrolled in a larger study to evaluate the post-acute cardiovascular impacts of COVID-19 were invited to participate in subsequent in-depth interviews. Participants were enrolled purposively until saturation at 24 participants. Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis. Results: Participants focused on adaptations to life with Long COVID and their unmet needs in different life spheres. Three domains, 1) occupational and financial; 2) healthcare-related; and 3) social and emotional support, emerged as areas affecting quality of life. Although participants were motivated to return to work for financial and personal reasons, Long COVID symptoms often resulted in the inability to perform tasks required by their existing jobs, and unemployment. Those who maintained employment through employer accommodations still needed additional support. Participants encountered diagnostic challenges, challenges in accessing specialty appointments, insurance loopholes, high healthcare costs, and medical skepticism. Existing social networks provided support for completing daily tasks; however, those with Long COVID typically turned to others with similar lived experiences for emotional support. Participants found government support programs inadequate and difficult to access in all three domains. Discussion: We propose a five-pronged policy approach to support persons with Long COVID. These overarching recommendations are (1) improve public awareness of Long COVID; (2) improve clinical care quality and access; (3) implement additional school and workplace accommodations; (4) strengthen socioeconomic benefits and social services; and (5) improve research on Long COVID.
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National Institute of Nursing Research