LUBBOCK, Texas — Fifty percent of people who reach the age of 85 have some form of Alzheimer’s, according to the Program’s Director of the Geriatric Fellowship program, Dr. John Culberson.
He said for those people with Alzheimer’s, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect.
“They don’t like change, and this has been a big change for everyone,” Culberson said.
Culberson said Patients rely heavily on routine as well as social contact as a way to treat their Alzheimer’s.
“The progression of Alzheimer’s dementia is slow but constant and I like to tell families it doesn’t necessarily get worse — it just gets different,” said Culberson.
Since many long term care facilities face a greater risk of COVID-19, the people inside are virtually alone.
“There are lots of uncertainties out there and I don’t think any dementia patients deal well with uncertainty,” Culberson said. “My own personal opinion is that depression and isolation will be the biggest problem. And it’s difficult to treat and you know zoom visits are great but they can’t replace normal activities.”
Those in facilities are also concerned about leaving and contracting the virus from somewhere else, leading to other issues.
“Some individuals are terrified to go to the hospital and some people are allowing some health problems to get a little bit out of control, and that’s coming back to bite them. My own personal opinion is that depression and isolation will be the biggest problem. It’s difficult to treat and zoom visits are great but they can’t replace normal activities,” said Culberson.
But Culberson said even caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s might be struggling.
“Families with relatives in long term care facilities are frustrated because they are limited to drive by events or looking through a window. It makes it painful,” said Alzheimer’s Association Director of Programs and Services David Hernandez.
And with lots of family members home right now, the household dynamics can also be stressful for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
“The home environment right now is very different. With mom and dad working from home their parents are there, their kids. It’s multigenerational,” said Hernandez.
While the pandemic may not end soon, Hernandez hopes that people with Alzheimer’s and caregivers alike can find a way to make the most of the situation.
“You can’t prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia but how can we create a better quality of life?” said Hernandez.
For people with Alzheimer’s or caregivers struggling right now the Alzheimer’s Association hosts virtual support groups.