People With Dementia Have Double the Risk of Getting COVID-19

People suffering from dementia are twice as likely to get COVID-19. They are also more likely to be hospitalized and die from the disease according to a U.S. study analysis of 61.9 million electronic medical records.

According to The New York Times, the study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, found that Black people with dementia had an even greater risk for COVID-19 than white individuals. Even after researchers adjusted their data to account for the greater general risk of dementia patients who are older and likely to in a healthcare facility, the disparity was evident. White Americans with dementia were twice as apt to get COVID-19, according to the Times, and Blacks were nearly three times more likely to get sick if they had dementia.

The researchers from Case Western Reserve University said their findings highlight “the need to protect patients with dementia, especially those who are Black.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that members of racial and ethnic minority groups are at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or experiencing severe illness, regardless of age. The CDC offered new data to show that in America, the death rates among Blacks and Hispanic/Latino people from the coronavirus are much higher than for white people, in all age categories.

The CDC suggests possible reasons for this disparity, including long-standing health and social inequities that have put people of racial and ethnic minority groups at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering severe complications.

Experts say there are several reasons that may explain the increased risk of COVID-19 in dementia patients.

“Folks with dementia are more dependent on those around them to do the safety stuff, to remember to wear the mask, to keep people away through social distancing,” said Dr. Kenneth Langa, a professor and associate director of the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Michigan. “There is the cognitive impairment and the fact they are more socially at risk.”

Others said that people with dementia lack mobility and muscle tone which could increase their risk of infection, according to the Times. Dr. Maria Carrillo, of the Alzheimer’s Association, pointed out that COVID-19 may exacerbate the inflammation response that already affects many people with dementia.

Dr. Langa said the new study that examined health records between Feb. 1 and April 21, 2020, did not include people who are poor and who may not have had access to medical facilities or doctors. Therefore, the actual numbers of dementia patients who became severely ill with COVID-19 may be underestimated, he said, according to the Times.

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