Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

Coronavirus isolation may be contributing to thousands of excess dementia deaths in the U.S.

From the beginning of the pandemic, health experts warned that the coronavirus' true toll would extend beyond illness and death directly related to COVID-19. As the health care system became overwhelmed earlier this year, many people who needed care for other medical issues received delayed treatment. But people suffering from dementia were perhaps most drastically affected, The Washington Post reports.

More than 134,200 people have died from Alzheimer's in the United States and other forms of dementia since March when the pandemic first really took hold across the country. The Post's analysis of federal data found that is 13,200 more deaths than expected compared with previous years. Indeed, the Post notes, dementia has produced by far the most excess fatalities not directly attributed to COVID-19 throughout the pandemic — more than diabetes and heart disease, the next two highest categories, combined.

The deaths appear to be related not just to the virus, but isolation strategy, the Post reports. Doctors have reported increased falls, pulmonary infections, depression, and suddenly frail patients who had been stable for years. That's likely partly attributable to the fact that social and mental stimulation, especially interactions with family members, are among the few ways to slow dementia, but are now much less available for patients because they are more isolated. Read more at The Washington Post.