Supporting COVID-19 patients, their families and friends

17 April, 2020

An international group of experts has written an editorial, published recently in the European Respiratory Journal, offering guidance to respiratory healthcare professionals for managing the supportive care needs of those affected by COVID-19.

The editorial was prepared in response to the rapid outbreak of the disease and subsequent global pandemic, as World Health Organization data shows that in around 20% of COVID-19 cases, the illness can cause severe respiratory symptoms that require hospital treatment.

The authors say there is a moral obligation to reduce patient suffering by improving symptom control among those who are not considered suitable for escalation to intensive care, but who are still at very high risk of serious complications. To support this, the authors recommend a parallel approach to patient management that covers four key areas, encompassing both optimal symptom management for those with severe disease but who will survive, as well as expert symptom management and end of life care for patients who are deteriorating.

The editorial offers guidance on:

  • Symptom relief for breathlessness, cough, fever, delirium and anxiety
  • Psychological support, with recommendations for health professionals to ease the psychological burden for families and friends of people with COVID-19
  • Information needs and parallel planning, including the need for early and honest discussion at the time of hospitalisation or COVID-19 diagnosis, regarding advance care planning and resuscitation status in case of worsening of the condition
  • Spiritual care, highlighting the importance of faith to many patients in coping with disease and health uncertainties

The editorial includes useful factsheets developed by the authors in collaboration with the European Lung Foundation (ELF), which explain what will happen once a person goes into hospital, how their symptoms will be managed and what will happen if they are put on a ventilator. The factsheets are intended to support health professionals in providing psychological support for patients, their families and friends following hospital admission due to COVID-19.

As COVID-19 is affecting people from all over the world and appears to be having a worse impact on people from black and minority ethnic groups, the factsheets have been translated into a wide range of languages, to make them accessible to as many people as possible.

Access the editorial in the European Respiratory Journal

Download the ELF factsheets – translations available