YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – For Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients, the pandemic has already made an isolating disease even more challenging.
Ohio saw a 14 percent increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia-related deaths through September of this year, averaging 1,162 deaths.
Cheryl Kanetsky, with the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater East Ohio, said those patients are dying at a faster rate than they were before the pandemic.
“Individuals who have cognitive challenges have a hard time following safety protocols of this pandemic,”Kanetsky said.
Just like everyone else, Alzheimer’s and dementia patients have had to isolate but even more so because of their disease.
“If you’re somebody with Alzheimer’s or dementia and you don’t understand what’s going on, this is causing a lot more emotional anguish than ever than the rest of us are experiencing,” Kanetsky said.
Dr. James Shina, with Steward Medical Group, says the biggest struggle for caregivers is finding a routine right now while making sure patients are not in a situation that can increase the risk of exposure.
“The worst thing you can do to these people is isolate them,” Shina said. “You can develop a different routine (such as ) I am going to call every day at a certain period of time. I’m going t show up at a certain period of time,” Shina said.
Shina added that symptoms of COVID-19 in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients may not be easy to identify, but caregivers and family should look for any changes in behavior.
“Like with any infection in this population, you look out for changes in personality and changes in cognition, so other thought processes,” Shina said.
If changes become apparent, Shina says it may be time to get a COVID-19 test.