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Why are people with dementia more likely to catch the coronavirus?

By | October 21st, 2020

It’s important to think about the particular population of people with dementia. Something like 5 percent of older adults live in long-term care facilities, and as many as two-thirds of people living in nursing homes suffer from dementia. It’s very common. I think that people with dementia have three important points that relate to this topic.

The first is that they’re more likely to catch this disease if they are exposed because older adults who have dementia may be less able to take the common sense and reasonable steps that are necessary for protecting themselves. They may not remember to wash their hands, they probably won’t remember to cover their coughs, they may not have the same judgement in keeping a distance from people who are infected.

As a result, they’re going to be more exposed to the risk of catching the disease. And similarly those same reasons are going to make them more likely to spread the disease as well. They may not have the judgement to keep their distance. People with dementia may also have impaired recognition and awareness of symptoms.

So although they might have a headache, or a low-grade fever, or be coughing, it’s possible that they won’t be as aware of it or be able to report it to their caregivers that something’s wrong and they might need medical attention. And if it isn’t brought to attention, they’ll be exposing others to the virus during the period of time when they’re highly contagious.

The third point that I think is important to think about is that they’re more likely to be the kinds of people who will die as a result of this infection. In China, the average age of people who died from this disease was 75, and that’s significantly higher than the average age of people who are infected.

So there’s a predilection for this disease to be more severe among older people. And speaking of diseases, older adults do tend to have these co-morbid diseases that were linked with greater likelihood of death with a coronavirus infection.

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