Study: Patients With Dementia Appear To Be At Increased Risk For COVID-19

Published: Monday, February 15, 2021 - 7:58am
Updated: Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - 1:01pm

A new study found that people with dementia are at significantly higher risk of contracting COVID-19. And that means they’re more likely to be hospitalized and die from the virus. 

The findings were published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. After looking at electronic medical records, researchers concluded that more needs to be done to protect patients with dementia and covid, especially those who are African American — they’re twice as likely to be sickened with COVID than whites. 

Dr. Alireza Atri, director of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, says he's not surprised by the results.

"I think these associations were well known already, there was a fair amount of data coming out early that individuals with dementia really were more at risk because of their kinds of abilities and the support they need," he said.

The study noted that dementia can damage the blood‐brain barrier and make patients more susceptible to infection. And patients with memory impairment may not comply with preventive measures like wearing a mask.  

Something else to consider says Dr. Atri, are the numbers. 

"And so it turned out that even though they were able to look at coding in health records that represented, over a million individuals with dementia, there was only about 15,000 individuals who had COVID, and of those only 800 had some sort of dementia, not all kinds of dementia."

And of that, he says only 260 were African American, and there were no Latinx or Asians with both COVID-19 and dementia. Still, it’s clear people with dementia are vulnerable to the virus and need to take precautions. So while in his view this is not a definitive study, it does appear to align with what researchers are seeing in people with Alzheimer's disease and certain other types of dementia. 

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