Sick elderly person wearing surgical face mask and being cared for by a clinician with stethoscope

Recovering from COVID-19 isn’t the end of the battle for some nursing home residents, particularly those with lingering pulmonary issues. That’s why multiple New York nursing homes are ensuring residents dealing with ongoing breathing issues get access to free support groups to help with their post-coronavirus struggles. 

“The most important thing is to let the community know that there are free support groups out there like this one for these post-COVID pulmonary issues,” explained Lisa Penziner, RN, a special projects director for three skilled nursing facilities. 

Six Long Island-based nursing homes are giving seniors access to the American Lung Association’s Better Breathers Club as they recover from COVID-19. The group allows cardiopulmonary-disease patients to connect virtually with others facing similar experiences, to learn breathing techniques and receive support throughout their recovery. 

“One of the most important parts of recovering from a severe illness is connecting with others in your shoes. These virtual support groups give you the tools you need to live the best quality of life you can,” adds Leanne Marinuk, program coordinator for the American Lung Association. 

The groups typically meet over Zoom once per month. Residents who have participated in the program credited the tool for being a difference-maker in their daily lives. 

Nancy Roeder, who also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, contracted COVID-19 in November and believes the disease left her lungs more damaged. She said the techniques she learned while attending the support group through Oasis Rehabilitation and Nursing in Center Moriches, NY, has been key for her recovery.  

“My first instinct when I cannot breath was always to bend over, but I have learned that is the worst thing you can do. Sit up straight and don’t panic,” she said. 

“After I had COVID, my asthma symptoms came back,” added Lenore DiBlasi. “I had the tightness in my chest and difficulty getting a breath. That’s when I started coming to this group.”

The gatherings could prove to be just the crucial tool that help the patients — and their former providers — breathe easier.