Deaths from Alzheimer’s and other dementias rose in 2020

The Washington Post March 2, 2021

By Tara Bahrampour

Kelly Cochran, center, with neighbor and Alzheimer’s Association volunteer Susan Monroe, and Cochran’s husband Marc, on St. Patrick’s Day 2019.

A year ago, Marc and Kathy Cochran were looking forward to a summer trip to Greece. Kathy, 68, had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2012, but she was functioning well and enjoying herself, which her husband of 48 years attributed to regular exercise and an active and varied social life.

That crashed to a halt when the novel coronavirus hit. The couple stopped going to restaurants, visiting friends or seeing their adult children. They even had to stop walking their dogs because the gregarious Kathy liked to run up and hug her neighbors and did not understand why that had become unsafe.

The changes put her into a tailspin. “It was just like the bottom dropped out,” Marc said. “I couldn’t get her to be calm.” In the ensuing months, her cognitive function declined so precipitously that she was moved to a memory-care facility, and she died in September.

Her husband blames the pandemic. “I can’t tell you that she wouldn’t have, but I could see a definite demarcation point from the time we shut down to the time she had to go into memory care,” he said. “One of the things that made her happy was seeing people, smiling at them, laughing with them, hugging them, and when she couldn’t do that . . . she would become agitated.”

If the pandemic did accelerate Kathy’s decline and death, she is probably not alone. Preliminary reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that there were at least 42,000 more deaths from Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 2020 compared with the average of the five years prior, according to a report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer’s Association. This was approximately 16 percent more than expected.

About 40 percent of covid-19 deaths in the United States have been residents or staffers of long-term-care facilities, said the report, which is the organization’s annual Facts and Figures assessment.

The Alzheimer’s Association 2021 published an up-to-date enlightening YouTube video Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures: https://youtu.be/xjJRUNqr7sk

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