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Pandemic influencing an uptick in deaths for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients

By Alexis Padilla, KSN, original article link

For years, Lorrie Beck has been a caregiver for her mom Shirley.

“My mom is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Her mom died of the disease as did her older sister. So, I passionately despise this disease,” Beck said.

Her mom has been in a long-term care facility since 2019.

“We were able to visit my mom nearly every single day in the care facility. We would help her eat. We would take her for walks,” she said.

The coronavirus pandemic of course changed that.

“I thought, she’s in the late stages of this disease. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t remember things. She doesn’t know that I’m not there every single day,” Beck said.

At first, Beck’s mom seemed to do well, even getting off hospice in October.

“They released her because she was improving and that was good, and then a month later, she came down with COVID. About a month after that, she lost weight, and she went back on hospice,” Beck explained.

“I was very sad because here I was thinking, ah, she’s in the late stages, it’s not gonna affect her. She’s isolated, you know in her mind, and I was totally wrong. Totally wrong,” she said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of dementia deaths in 2020 through November was 16% higher than expected.

While researchers aren’t sure of specific reasons for the increase, there are ideas.

“One of the things to kind of keep our brain active and healthy is that social interaction, and then when you’re not getting it, that is really hard on those individuals,” said Breana Tucker, program director for the Alzheimer’s Association Central and Western Kansas chapter.

Tucker explained a lack of short term memory may play a part.

“People with dementia may forget to wash their hands or take other precautions.”

Advocates are encouraging people with loved ones battling the disease to keep up interaction safely.

For Beck, that’s through window visits.

“I was hoping that I was keeping us connected. My voice, continuing to say her name, my name, my sister’s name.”

Researchers with the association are still looking into the impact COVID-19 can have on the brain.

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