COVID-19: increasing reports link coronavirus-related care home deaths with dementia

Written by Sharon Salt, Senior Editor

Multiple reports have pointed out the worrying number of care home deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of these deaths being linked to dementia.

In the UK, the Office for National Statistics has revealed that half of deaths in care homes from COVID-19 have been people with dementia. For deaths occurring between 2 March–12 June 2020 (registered up to 20 June 2020), 49.5% of people dying from COVID-19 in care homes had dementia listed as their primary pre-existing condition.

Results from the Vivaldi study – a large-scale survey that looked at COVID-19 infections in 9,081 care homes providing care for dementia patients and the elderly in England – show that approximately 56% of care homes reported at least one confirmed case of coronavirus (staff or resident). Across these care homes that reported at least one case of coronavirus, it has been estimated that 20% of residents and 7% of staff tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

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Additionally, of all hospital deaths that involved COVID-19, 15.5% were accounted for by care home residents. It was also found that more female care home residents died of dementia than COVID-19 during the crisis – 33.8% of all deaths of female care home residents were attributed to dementia compared with 26.6% attributed to COVID-19.

“These latest figures reveal the crushing reality of coronavirus’ impact in care homes, and yet again confirm that people with dementia have been the worst hit. They are the biggest users of our threadbare social care system, and it is heart breaking to learn that nearly half of all residents who lost their lives to COVID-19 also had dementia,” commented Ewan Russell, Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society (London, UK).

“Across the system, there has been a total failure to keep people with dementia safe during this crisis, at the cost of thousands of lives,” said Russell.

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In the USA, it has been reported that more than 2 million people live in long-term and residential care communities. According to the Alzheimer’s Association (IL, USA), some estimates say that more than 27,000 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care communities. The virus so far has infected more than 150,000 at some 7,700 facilities.

Across the USA, there are more than 15,000 nursing homes and more than 28,000 assisted living communities. In the 2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report from the Alzheimer’s Association, 48% of nursing home residents are said to be living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Among older adults in residential facilities, including assisted living, 42% or more have some form of Alzheimer’s or other dementias. In addition, many individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias receive community-based services, including 32% of individuals using home health services and 31% using adult day services.

“Given all that is now known, the national response to this still developing crisis needs to be swift, effective and coordinated across federal, state and local governments so that we support all long-term care communities,” concluded Harry Johns, President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Sources: www.alzheimers.org.uk/news/2020-07-03/ons-figures-show-50-cent-all-covid-19-deaths-care-homes-also-had-dementia; www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/articles/impactofcoronavirusincarehomesinenglandvivaldi/26mayto19june2020; www.alz.org/news/2020/death-count-continues-to-grow-in-nursing-homes-and