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Dr. Cate McCarty - Dementia and Pandemic

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With the nation coping with Coronavirus, how do we best take care of protecting our loved ones?

The following is a compilation of the most recent guidance offered by national and international resources.

Research has shown the brains of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have a compromised immune system.1 Microglia, a specialized immune cell that clears toxic debris from the brain, is compromised early in the disease process.2 Even individuals who have a non-Alzheimer’s form of dementia may be at risk because of dementia-related behaviors, increased age and accompanying health conditions.3

Why are so many of your go-to resources closed or closed to visitors?

Whether your loved one lives at home or in a care community, you have seen closures. This week’s research confirmed that COVID-19, the unique severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, was detectable in aerosols (the air) for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to twenty-four hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.4 It is using wise caution which has prompted the change in our resources.

What wise caution is called for in your home? 

Consider the March 19, 2020, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s blog “Social Distancing is a Must.”5 Dr. Francis states for every confirmed case of COVID-19, there are probably five to ten people with undetected infections. These five to ten people are purported to be about half as infectious as the one confirmed case. However, when looking at undetected infections in China, they were apparently the infection source for eighty-six percent of confirmed cases. Once China put travel restrictions and social distancing in place, the spread of infection slowed significantly.

Social distancing is not only for our own and our loved ones’ protection but for our healthcare community at large. By slowing the spread, our healthcare community will have more time to meet the needs of those infected.

Along with social distancing, Alzheimer’s Society, UK suggests you help your loved one be more vigilant with hand washing and sanitizing.6 Frequent sanitizing of hard surfaces like door handles, remote controls, and phones are also advised. Distancing your loved one from the news will protect them from anxiety and fear. Finding adaptive ways to have social interaction and stimulation while self-isolating may include technology and a new daily routine.

Whether your loved one lives at home or in a care community, it is important to remember their health is a primary focus for researchers, healthcare professionals and your community leaders. Keeping informed and doing our best to keep them safe is today’s strategy for getting through this challenging time in our nation’s history.

By-line:  Cate McCarty, PhD’s background in nursing, activities and admissions has given her a passionate commitment to quality of life for the individual and family with dementia.  Cate is currently the care partner for her spouse who has early stage dementia of the Alzheimer’s type

Footnotes

1 March 19, 2020, Dementia UK advice for people with dementia and their families, regarding the coronavirus.https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/research/our-research/research-projects/understanding-how-immune-system-contributes-alzheimers-disease-development

2 February 6, 2018, Immune system dysfunction may occur early in Alzheimer’s disease, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180206115411.htm.

3Corona Virus (COVID-19) Tips for Dementia Caregivers, https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/coronavirus-(covid-19)-tips-for-dementia-care

4March 17, 2020, New coronavirus stable for hours on surfaces, SARS-CoV-2 stability similar to original SARS virushttps://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/new-coronavirus-stable-hours-surfaces

5 March 19th, 2020,To Beat COVID-19, Social Distancing is a Must, Dr. Francis Collins

https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2020/03/19/to-beat-covid-19-social-distancing-is-a-must/

6 March 19,Coronavirus: Information for people affected by dementia,  https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/coronavirus-covid-19