Alzheimer's deaths, emotional distress increased during pandemic, report finds

Posted at 10:19 AM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 10:30:25-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A new report from the Alzheimer's Association shows the pandemic had a devastating impact on people with Alzheimer's disease. The death rate increased and care facilities say a lack of visitors took a toll on mental health.

At The Lantern at Morning Pointe in Lexington, the need to care for residents remains, but the care has changed over the last year.

"A lot of our residents do understand the pandemic and the COVID and why they can have family members in, but there are some that don't and our staff really stepped up during the past year to meet the needs," said Community Relations Director Jana Hatton.

Hatton says the biggest impact they noticed was when the center stopped allowing visitors. Residents missed their families and needed interaction.

"Everybody needs socialization," she said. "We try to keep our residents out with us in the community all day long. There were times where we had to keep residents safe in their rooms, but we gave them one-on-one attention as much as possible. We made sure they had things to do and that they know they are safe and are loved here."

The impact of the pandemic had gone beyond loneliness and emotional distress.

The Alzheimer's Association came out with a new report detailing the pandemic's effect on the death rate of people with Alzheimer's. The report states there were at least 42,000 more deaths from Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 2020 compared to the averages over the previous five years.

Specifically in Kentucky, there were 921 more deaths last year compared to the averages over the previous five years -- a 21.5% increase.

"There are a few reasons for that," said Shannon White, chapter executive of the Alzheimer's Association Greater Kentucky/Southern Indiana. "First of all, some people have a cognitive impairment that they can't wash their hands as much or they can't wear a mask, but also they were in larger communal settings and so that really affected it as well. It let the virus spread more rapidly."

As vaccinations continue to roll out, White says they have hope looking ahead.

That same hope is at The Lantern at Morning Pointe, where a year later it's now slowly starting to let visitors back in to see loved ones.

"When you can't have that face-to-face interaction, you realize how critically important it is and how blessed we are to do that," said Hatton.