Area nursing homes remain on lockdown as a result of the spread of the coronavirus. This means that residents are left unable to see loved ones, family members, and friends. As a result, a spike in Alzheimer’s related deaths is being viewed as another ripple effect of the pandemic, and the troubling information resonates around the area and in the state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s chief of mortality statistics said deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s and dementia were 20% above normal this summer. Isolation during lockdowns and disruptions to nursing-home care are cited as possible factors.
Greg Woods, program specialist with the Greater Iowa Chapter of Alzheimer’s Association, said facilities across the state have been creative and flexible in providing interactions for patients. But the virus has upended the lives of those who are least able to cope with change.
Woods said the area’s rural backdrop already makes it harder to care for Alzheimer’s patients, with resources not as easily accessible. In Iowa, Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death. And the state’s number of cases is projected to increase by nearly 15% in the next five years.
As states like Iowa continue to see spikes in novel coronavirus cases, Woods said it’s crucial for caregivers to try and ward off forced isolation as much as possible.
Families of patients have been calling on states and the federal government to boost testing at nursing homes, especially for staff members who could be bringing the virus into facilities. Advocates for stronger testing say it could pave the way for families to have more interaction with their loved ones.