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The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with dementia

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unique risks to people with Alzheimer disease and dementia. Research from 2020 has shown that these people have a relatively high risk of contracting severe COVID-19, and are also at risk of neuropsychiatric disturbances as a result of lockdown measures and social isolation.

Key advances

  • People with dementia are at high risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection because cognitive symptoms cause difficulty with following safeguarding procedures and living arrangements in care homes facilitate viral spread.

  • Once infected, older adults with dementia are more likely to experience severe virus-related outcomes, including death, than are people without dementia.

  • A homozygous APOE ε4 genotype is associated with an increased risk of hospitalization for COVID-19, possibly owing to exacerbated inflammation and cytokine production that leads to a cytokine storm.

  • Older adults with dementia, especially those in care homes, are at high risk of worsening psychiatric symptoms and severe behavioural disturbances as a result of social isolation during the pandemic.

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