PATIENTS WITH DEMENTIA ARE MORE AT RISK OF COVID-19 INFECTION
Experts argue that more must be done to protect the vulnerable communities in society. A study revealed that people with dementia are at an elevated risk of having COVID-19. The risk is even greater to Black Americans.
A new study was published Tuesday in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. In the study, researchers from Case Western University analyzed electronic health record data from 61.9 million American adults. They found the risk of contracting COVID-19 is twice as high for people with dementia as for those without it.
The results also suggested that patients were more likely than people without the cognitive disease to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
During the study, the overall hospitalization risk was about 25 percent. However, for COVID-19 patients with dementia, it more than doubled-about 59 percent. The overall risk of mortality was about 5 percent, but around 20 percent died among those who also had dementia.
“Dementia patients are more susceptible to both acquiring and also doing much worse with COVID infection when they have it,” said Pamela Davis, Case Western University professor of general medical sciences, who contributed to the study.
The research also shows disparities within this vulnerable population, even after controlling for other risk factors. Black patients, among those with dementia, were almost three times as likely as white patients to be infected with COVID-19.
Seventy-three percent of black dementia patients were hospitalized in the study, compared to about 53 percent of white patients. In the study, 23% of black patients died, compared with 19% of white patients.
To fully understand why these disparities exist, more research is needed, said Brittany Baker, coordinator of the undergraduate program and clinical assistant professor at North Carolina Central University. She speculates that patients with black dementia may be at greater risk of getting COVID-19 from their adult caregivers.
Hesitancy of Vaccines
According to a 2020 research report by AARP, black caregivers report providing more hours of care each week, 31.2 hours on average, compared to white caregivers, who provided an average of 21.2 hours.
Black Americans are less likely than white Americans to get vaccinated as well. According to a report by the Kaiser COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, half of the black adults who say they will not take the vaccine are worried they may get COVID-19 from it. It’s been stated by the CDC that one cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccines avaialble.
They are at home if (patients) are not in an extended facility. Their families are going to be of the same ethnicity, and on the front lines are their family members,’ Baker said. “We need to start from the front line in order to make things fair.”
After centuries of structural racism, Baker said more education and transparency is needed to overcome rational distrust in the medical system.
Half of nursing home staff declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19
A CDC study last week found that when they were offered a shot, more than half of nursing home staff declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“It’s difficult because dementia patients need human contact and need human interaction,” said Davis. “Nevertheless, it is precisely human interaction that could bring them the COVID.”
According to lead author Rong Xu, the study controlled for other known risk factors for COVID-19. Risk factors such as age, gender, underlying medical conditions and congregate living situations. Xu said, when researchers compared old patients with dementia and younger patients with dementia, they found no statistical difference.
Health experts speculate that symptoms of dementia can increase the risk of patients getting COVID-19, not the disease itself.
“Dementia itself is not likely to make individuals at risk,” said Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer’s Association. “(It’s) things like forgetting to wear a mask, not remembering physical distances or washing your hands.”