Dementia, COVID-19 Isolation and Added Mortality Risk Hard on Families

Research shows a higher mortality rate for those with COVID-19 and dementia. Increased isolation of older people adds to confusion and anxiety.

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Dementia, COVID-19 Isolation and Added Mortality Risk Hard on Families
4 Min Read October 22nd, 2020

Many people are tired of hearing about the issues surrounding the virus crisis. However, this one is incredibly difficult for family members who are suffering from some form of dementia. Not only does the isolation of COVID-19 confuse them and add to their anxiety, but research also shows they may face a higher risk of death.

Research shows that those inflicted with COVID-19 who also suffer from some form of dementia are substantially higher than those who do not suffer from cognitive decline. Data from the United Kingdom shows that having dementia doubles the risk of death from COVID-19. The Chinese University of Hong Kong says the mortality rate for people aged 60 or above was around 6.27%, about 105 times higher than those below 60 (0.06%). This makes dementia and COVID-19 a deadly combination.

Since both those who are older and those with dementia high higher COVID-19 risk, a priority should be made to protect and isolate the higher risk population. However, the isolation itself can be challenging for these people which adds to the problem.

Isolation of Dementia Patients is Problematic

“The pandemic has been devastating to older adults and their families when they are unable to see each other and provide practical and emotional support,” said Lynn Friss Feinberg, a senior strategic policy adviser at AARP Public Policy Institute, quoted in a story published on Kaiser Health News.

Many older people, especially those who have dementia, find it hard to understand the isolation and what seems to be the strange behavior of caregivers. With everyone wearing masks and family members often unable to visit, their level of anxiety increases.

Many people who require supervision due to dementia or other types of long-term health care are often cared for by unpaid family members. Professional staff in facilities or professional home care providers are able to address this added anxiety. Most family caregivers are not prepared to deal with this added problem and are already often stressed and burdened from their role as a caregiver.

Family Members Often in Caregiving Role

Many family members find themselves in the position of being an unpaid caregiver. About half of us will need some form of long-term care as we get older. Dementia is one of the leading reasons people require long-term care services and supports.

Since many families failed to plan for the future costs and burdens of aging, the family become the default caregivers. Traditional health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, pay for a limited amount of skilled care. Because of this, the responsibility falls on family and an individual's assets. Only Long-Term Care Insurance will provide benefits for this type of care.

There are several things caregivers need to be aware of when dealing with a dementia patient's needs. Simple hygiene issues like washing their hands can add to a dementia patient’s risk of CDID-19 infection. The Alzheimer’s Association offers several suggestions:

Be Aware of Increased Confusion

Confusion is often the first symptom of any illness. A person with dementia will add to the confusion. It is suggested calling the doctor before taking the person to the Emergency Room. The physician may able to address the problem without the need for the hospital. 

Add Extra Reminders for the Individual

 You can help the care recipient by placing several reminders throughout the home to help them remember essential hygienic practices like washing their hands. These reminders should be strategically placed so they will see them and can act right away.

Caregivers Should Take Their Temperature 

Be it a family caregiver or a professional caregiver, they should take their temperature daily before starting their role. It is critical to avoid infecting a person with dementia with COVID-19 and increase their mortality risk.

Telephone and Video Chats

Family members and friends should be encouraged to visit with the care recipient through a telephone or video chat. This is especially important for those living in a care facility as most will not allow visitors. These conversations can reduce the level of anxiety.

The Alzheimer’s Association has many other recommendations on their website.

This heightened separation from loved ones and the major changes in routine is not suitable for the health and well-being of those who are older, especially those who suffer from dementia. However, it is essential to maintain the isolation protocols to protect them from the virus and added risk of death.

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About the Author

Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

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