An estimated 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older and 50 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. Strong risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Many of these common comorbidities in patients with dementia are also demonstrated risk factors for COVID-19 and are associated with worse clinical outcomes. In addition to these possible comorbidities increasing risk, in patients living with dementia, the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is damaged, which allows certain bacteria and viruses to access the brain more easily and make patients more susceptible to bacterial, viral, and fungal infection.
SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to affect the brain directly with reports of encephalitis, thrombotic events, and brain invasion and as we know, early signs of the disease are a loss of taste and smell. In a study published in the Alzheimer’s Journals, it identified that patients were at significantly increased risk for COVID-19 compared to patients without dementia. An important finding in the study is that Blacks with dementia are more likely to be infected by SARS-CoV-2 compared to Whites with dementia. The study also showed that the odds of SARS-CoV-2 infection for patients with vascular dementia remained more than three times increased over patients without vascular dementia even considering other comorbidities.
We have lived through a very trying year, we isolated, masked, gowned, social distanced, and yet we still haven’t won the battle, we are close but not there yet. Please take a few minutes to review the study and educate staff on the increased risk to our residents living with dementia!
Stay well, mask up, and stay tuned!