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COVID and Alzheimer’s – an unhealthy mix

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As if COVID-19 isn’t scary enough, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is telling us what many family caregivers for people living with Alzheimer’s disease already know: the social isolation that the coronavirus requires is having a detrimental impact on our loved ones living with dementia. It’s a statistic they call “deaths above average.”

More of our loved ones with Alzheimer’s – roughly 21% more than expected – have passed away during the coronavirus pandemic, but not due to the virus. According to the CDC, these individuals are dying at higher rates than normal because of the emotional and psychological strains of being separated from loved ones during an extremely stressful time.

Confused because loved ones are not visiting. Being surrounded by people wearing masks. Not being able to see loved ones in person or have dinner with neighbors and friends. These are just a few of the complications that leave people with Alzheimer’s befuddled.

The good news is a COVID-19 vaccine is close, and caregivers in our nursing homes, memory care units and assisted living residences will be on the priority list for receiving the vaccine in Colorado. But this will take time.

The reality is there are 76,000 Coloradans living with Alzheimer’s disease, and more than 700,000 other older Coloradans without dementia living in these care communities. Add in tens of thousands of health care professionals who are also a top priority for vaccination and limits on the number of doses available to all states, including Colorado. The result: it will take time for all Coloradans living with dementia to be vaccinated.

To help families cope with these caregiving complications, the Alzheimer’s Association has assembled valuable tips for families on how to navigate these challenges – particularly around the holidays. To learn more about education, programs and services offered at no charge by the Alzheimer’s Association, go to www.alz.org or call the 24/7 toll-free Helpline: 800-272-3900.

Content by Jim Herlihy, Senior Marketing & Communications Director
(720) 699-9286 or jherlihy@alz.org.

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