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Why are People with Dementia More Susceptible to COVID-19?

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

COVID-19 and dementia have one thing in common: age being the greatest risk factor for contracting these two diseases. This is due to the fact that the elderly have more compromised immune systems than the rest of the population which makes them especially vulnerable to contracting viruses such as COVID-19. Individuals dealing with dementia, in particular, are in the category of people most at risk for contracting this virus because of other underlying medical conditions and a weaker immune system than normal.

Around 20 to 30 percent of individuals with dementia have a secondary health issue. These include, but are not limited to, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, coronary artery disease, and cancer. Additionally, these individuals have macrophages that are not functioning at full capacity. Macrophages are immune cells that are in charge of identifying pathogens in the body and destroying them. For those dealing with dementia, their macrophages are not able to detect the pathogen making them more susceptible to diseases such as COVID-19.

Furthermore, individuals with Alzheimer’s are not able to express their concerns and communicate whether they are feeling ill or not. This is extremely dangerous because it can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment. However, there are signs that you can look out for in a loved one dealing with dementia to determine if they are ill:

  • Increased Confusion: Individuals dealing with dementia naturally have a certain level of confusion as they are dealing with memory loss. However, an acute increase in this confusion (behavior out of the normal) can be a potential sign of illness. For example, increased confusion is linked to urinary tract infection and dehydration, so there is a possibility that it could point to another illness.

  • Decrease in Appetite: If your loved one is refusing to eat their meals or has a drastic decrease in appetite, it can indicate that they are feeling ill. However, a small decrease in appetite, for example not wanting to eat snacks anymore, should not be a reason for concern.

  • Drastic decrease or increase in Thirst: If your loved one is drinking more than 8 glasses of water or less than 5 glasses of water each day, it is a sign that they are not feeling well.

  • Decreased Energy: Although your loved one may not be able to tell you that they are feeling unwell, they can most definitely show it through their actions. If a person with dementia is normally active and attempts to engage in conversations suddenly withdraw themselves from these situations, it tells you that there is another issue.

People dealing with dementia indisputably need a greater level of care due to the current circumstances. It is important to stay up to date with the latest news on the COVID-19 situation as well as follow the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so that we can get through this pandemic together.




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