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More Alzheimer's and dementia deaths among COVID-19, support needed

Posted at 10:07 AM, Nov 30, 2020

LANSING, Mich. — COVID-19 has hit Michigan families impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia especially hard. It’s also made it more difficult to raise funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

“Since the pandemic began, we’ve been hearing more about increased isolation and stress for persons with dementia and their caregivers,” said Jennifer Lepard, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter. “Now, based on an analysis of CDC data, we’re seeing an excess number of deaths in Michigan and nationwide due to Alzheimer’s and dementia during COVID-19. While a closer examination is needed to understand all the potential reasons why that’s the case, we know families impacted by dementia need more support than ever right now. Alzheimer’s is difficult enough without a pandemic.”

While dementia does not increase risk for COVID-19, dementia-related behaviors, increased age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia increase risk. That — combined with increased levels of isolation and stress for persons with dementia and their caregivers — has led to at least 34,851 more reported deaths due to Alzheimer’s or another dementia nationwide than average, based on an Alzheimer’s Association analysis of CDC data over past five years.

Michigan is now up to 1,187 more deaths than expected, a 17.6% increase compared to the five-year average.

Since May, the Alzheimer’s Association has been calling for long-term care policy recommendations [], including the need for rapid-turnaround testing and prioritization testing to end social isolation and ensure COVID-19 does not spread in these settings and end social isolation.

“We also quickly adapted to offer our education programs, support groups, social engagement programs and care consultations virtually and by phone to ensure the health and safety of all our constituents,” Lepard said. “Our programs and services, along with our 24/7 Helpline, offer emotional connection and social support, provide much-needed information about memory loss and dementia, and help persons with dementia and their care partners find ways to remain socially active — even amid COVID-19.”

Raising funds has been challenging this year due to so much stress and uncertainty, but the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter is still hoping to raise at least 50 percent of its 2020 Lansing Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraising goal.

“We’re just less than $17,000 away from raising $142,500, which is half of our original goal of $285,000 this year,” Lepard said.

According to Lepard, Michigan residents can help support persons with dementia and their caregivers in many ways.

“Michigan residents can support their families and neighbors by checking in on them, helping with their to-do lists, learning more about the disease itself and helping fund dementia care, support and research by donating to the Lansing Walk to End Alzheimer’s,” Lepard said.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and the only leading cause without a treatment, prevention or cure.

“It’s devastating and costly, and the more than 190,000 Michigan residents living with dementia and their 518,000 caregivers need our help and support,” Lepard said.

Learn more about how you can support the Lansing Walk.

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