Lifestyle

Dementia heightens COVID-19 death risk

Australians with dementia are more likely to catch COVID-19 and die from the infection or suffer severe complications, researchers say.

Safeguarding procedures, such as physical distancing and mask wearing, are extremely difficult for people with dementia to follow, increasing their risk of infection, UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) found.

Many people living in aged care homes – a high-risk transmission setting – have dementia, further compounding the risk, co-director of CHeBA Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty says.

“This type of living arrangement – where residents live in close proximity and where physical distancing is impossible for residents who are dependent on staff for most of their daily activities – drastically increases virus transmission,” he said.

But dementia sufferers are also likely to be hit harder by the virus.

A study conducted in the UK has indicated dementia can increase the risk of neurological complications from COVID-19, CHeBA’s Dr Katya Numbers says.

On top of that, measure designed to curb the spread of the virus have serious mental and behavioural impacts on those with dementia.

“Older adults are likely to experience additional distress as a result of the absence of relatives they would normally engage with on a regular basis,” Dr Numbers said.

“The strict limitations imposed on their social activities and engagement with each other appear to have a direct impact on neuropsychiatric symptoms and behavioural complications – mostly in residents with dementia, but also in people without any cognitive impairment.”

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