SA: A Tsunami of Dementia Could Be on the Way

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, adults aged 65 and older have been disproportionately affected. These individuals are at higher risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19 and account for around 66% of pandemic related hospital admissions. Additionally, stay-at-home orders have a disproportionate effect because many of these individuals rely on others for care. This pandemic is also predicted to strongly affect older individuals’ cognitive functioning, predicting a large wave of dementia. COVID-19 causes respiratory failure; lack of oxygen to the brain has been linked to increased risk of dementia. Additionally, ventilator and sedation use to treat COVID-19 may be problematic for older individuals as it can cause delirium and increased risk for dementia long term. However, there are validated protocols in place to prevent cognitive decline such as periodically interrupting sedatives and orienting patients to their surroundings. Stay-at-home orders are also problematic for older individuals as social isolation and loneliness are linked to higher likelihood of memory decline. Governmental funding and community based support are imperative to limiting COVID-19’s effect on dementia.

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