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Study Shows COVID-19 Pandemic Caused a Rise in Death Risk for Seniors with Alzheimer's

By Steve Smith

A new study reveals that during the pandemic's first year, the risk of dying shot up nearly 26% among American seniors with Alzheimer's disease. Minorities faced even higher odds of death, either as a direct result of COVID or because of disruptions in health care, researchers found.

Persons with dementia are least capable of coping with major health care upheavals, so the spike in risk of death among this population in 2020 is not surprising.

According to study leader Dr. Lauren Gilstrap, an assistant professor of health policy at the Dartmouth Institute in Lebanon, N.H., the main cause was unintended fallout from abrupt changes to health delivery.

"There was a decrease in in-patient care and a transition of outpatient care to telehealth platforms. There were also significant alterations to daily operations for nursing facilities, including lockdowns and strict visitation procedures," she noted.

And when it comes to who is most vulnerable to abrupt changes in health care services, Gilstrap said, "older adults with cognitive issues — like Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias -- are at, or near, the top of the list."

Dr. Elan Guterman an assistant professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote an editorial that accompanied the study. She said the findings again show that COVID has affected how people live everyday life. People are more isolated, it's harder to access medical care, and community resources have changed.

Read the full story: US News & World Report

Education and resources for caregivers:

USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Center and Research Institute

 

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