People with Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia are at increased risk of being infected with and dying from coronavirus, a review by UNSW researchers has found.
They are also likely to experience more stress, anxiety and depression than the general population as result of control measures such as lockdowns.
The review of research over the last 12 months, by Katya Numbers and Henry Brodaty from the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CheBa) at UNSW, is published in the current edition of Nature Reviews Neurology.
“As research into this impact has accumulated throughout 2020, a clear picture has emerged that this population is particularly susceptible not just to SARS-CoV-2 infection and its effects, but also to the negative effects of the measures taken worldwide to control the spread of the virus,” the review concludes.
Dr Numbers says she and Professor Brodaty looked at all the research on the topic that has been published to date.
“We concluded that reason people with dementia are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 is because they’re more likely to get it in the first place,” she said.
“And if they get it they’re more likely to get severe medical consequences associated with it, and they’re more likely to be in isolation and suffer from the effects of isolation than other people.”
She says people living with dementia can have cognitive and compliance problems with self-quarantining, as well as taking preventive measures like mask-wearing.
Tendencies to wander can also put them at risk, and their daily care also often requires close contact, making social distancing difficult.
There may also be a genetic link tied to the body’s inflammatory responses, as well risk factors from vascular issues and diabetes, that put people with dementia at increased risk, the research says.
Meanwhile, those who do contract COVID appear to experience more severe symptoms, the researchers say, citing a UK study that found hospitalisation is three times higher for people with dementia than those without.
Dr Brodaty says the findings highlight the need for proper and specialised support for people with dementia.
“Throughout the pandemic and its ensuing aftermath the impact of Covid-19 on older adults living with dementia and the need for effective caregiver support … must not be ignored,” he said.
Access the study here.
This story first ran on Community Care Review.