Why the Pandemic is Linked to the Excess Deaths of Alzheimer and Dementia Patients
While there have been numerous deaths directly related to the coronavirus, studies are showing that many others are also dying from being quarantined in isolation.
Since the onset of COVID-19 in March, the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s and Dementia have risen to more than 20 percent above what is considered normal for that time period. Politico reported 61,000 deaths of dementia patients since June; 11,000 more than usual. The Washington Post also reported that more than 134,200 individuals have died – from Alzheimer’s as well as other dementia-related medical conditions – since the onset of the pandemic.
The chief of mortality statistics at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Robert Anderson, said, “There’s something wrong, there’s something going on and it needs to be sorted out. This is highly unusual.”
Why Have the Number of Deaths of Escalated?
This is not the first instance where there have been more excess deaths (unusually higher numbers than normal) happening due to other medical conditions in conjunction with a coronavirus spike.
According to a recent news report in Politico, the first cycle of excess deaths occurred early in the pandemic. Most of the deaths then were attributed, not just to dementia, but also to pneumonia and heart disease.
Many nursing homes and other long-term care facilities around the country were ill-equipped to handle the increased level of care needed to limit the spread of the infection. Some facilities were already operating understaffed. Once the pandemic hit, facilities faced further reduced staffing levels, in part because caregivers were concerned about getting the virus themselves, but also because many of the staff did become ill. Additionally, there was not enough access to testing and too little funding to get enough supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Throughout the pandemic, federal support has been lacking – too little, too late for many.
Why Are Patients With Dementia and Alzheimer’s So Affected?
Treatment for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related medical diseases includes cognitive stimulation. The need to isolate residents from group activities and visits with family members to help limit the spread of the virus has taken a serious toll on these patients. The discontinuation of social interaction and cognitive stimulation causes dementia patients to decline significantly faster. Often these patients also become depressed and stop eating.
When Will Nursing Homes Bring Back Family Visits?
The families of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia are also impacted, because they know that their visits make a difference to their loved one.
Dan Goerke’s wife, Denise, who is just 63 years, suffers from Alzheimer’s. Since the onset of the pandemic, her health has taken a dramatic downward turn. Once able to recognize and communicate with her loved ones, she can now barely utter a one-word sentence. Repeatedly left alone in the facility where she lives, she has already lost 16 pounds and now, barely recognizes her husband, who she has been with for over 23 years.
Her husband says, “It’s like we as a country just don’t care anymore about older people. We’ve written them off.”
Goerke has written to the governor in his hometown state of Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in the last couple of weeks to plead for rapid testing in Georgia’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Right now, with nursing homes still in lockdown mode, family members can only visit their loved ones for deathbed visits.
Contact PKSD For Your Free Consultation Today
At PKSD, we have been advocating for the rights of nursing home residents for over 20 years, recovering millions in compensation during that time. These recoveries include a $1,500,000 settlement for a case involving a nursing home death due to negligence.
If you are concerned for a loved one who may be suffering from undue neglect, we are prepared to help. Call our firm to speak to one of our Wisconsin nursing home abuse attorneys. We can discuss your situation in the free initial consultation that we offer. There is no obligation to pursue a claim, but it gives you the opportunity to understand your legal options and get answers to your questions.