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Trends in Mortality Rates Among Medicare Enrollees With Dementias Before and during the Pandemic

Trends in Mortality Rates Among Medicare Enrollees With Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias Before and During the Early Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic


JAMA Neurol. Published online February 28, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.0010


Key Points

Question Is the COVID-19 pandemic associated with changes in mortality among older adults with Alzheimer disease and related dementias (ADRD)?

Findings In this cross-sectional study of 53 640 888 Medicare enrollees 65 years of age or older, compared with 2019, mortality was 12% higher among beneficiaries without ADRD and 26% higher among beneficiaries with ADRD in 2020. Among nursing home residents without ADRD, mortality was 24% higher, and among nursing home residents with ADRD, mortality was 33% higher.

Meaning These findings suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with increased mortality among older Medicare enrollees with ADRD, especially among beneficiaries living in nursing homes.

Abstract

Importance The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally altered the delivery of health care in the United States. The associations between these COVID-19–related changes and outcomes in vulnerable patients, such as among persons with Alzheimer disease and related dementias (ADRD), are not yet well understood.

Objective To determine the association between regional rates of COVID-19 infection and excess mortality among individuals with ADRD.

Design, Setting, and Participants This retrospective cross-sectional study used data from beneficiaries of 100% fee-for-service Medicare Parts A and B between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2020, to assess age- and sex-adjusted mortality rates. Participants were 53 640 888 Medicare enrollees 65 years of age or older categorized into 4 prespecified cohorts: enrollees with or without ADRD and enrollees with or without ADRD residing in nursing homes.

Exposures Monthly COVID-19 infection rates by hospital referral region between January and December 2020.

Main Outcomes and Measures Mortality rates from March through December 2020 were compared with those from March through December 2019. Excess mortality was calculated by comparing mortality rates in 2020 with rates in 2019 for specific, predetermined groups. Means were compared using t tests, and 95% CIs were estimated using the delta method.

Results This cross-sectional study included 26 952 752 Medicare enrollees in 2019 and 26 688 136 enrollees in 2020. In 2019, the mean (SD) age of community-dwelling beneficiaries without ADRD was 74.1 (8.8) years and with ADRD was 82.6 (8.4) years. The mean (SD) age of nursing home residents with ADRD (83.6 [8.4] years) was similar to that for patients without ADRD (79.7 [8.8] years). Among patients diagnosed as having ADRD in 2019, 63.5% were women, 2.7% were Asian, 9.2% were Black, 5.7% were Hispanic, 80.7% were White, and 1.7% were identified as other (included all races or ethnicities other than those given); the composition did not change appreciably in 2020. Compared with 2019, adjusted mortality in 2020 was 12.4% (95% CI, 12.1%-12.6%) higher among enrollees without ADRD and 25.7% (95% CI, 25.3%-26.2%) higher among all enrollees with ADRD, with even higher percentages for Asian (36.0%; 95% CI, 32.6%-39.3%), Black (36.7%; 95% CI, 35.2%-38.2%), and Hispanic (40.1%; 95% CI, 37.9%-42.3%) populations with ADRD. The hospital referral region in the lowest quintile for COVID-19 infections in 2020 had no excess mortality among enrollees without ADRD but 8.8% (95% CI, 7.5%-10.2%) higher mortality among community-dwelling enrollees with ADRD and 14.2% (95% CI, 12.2%-16.2%) higher mortality among enrollees with ADRD living in nursing homes.

Conclusions and Relevance The results of this cross-sectional study suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic may be associated with excess mortality among older adults with ADRD, especially for Asian, Black, and Hispanic populations and people living in nursing homes, even in areas with low COVID-19 prevalence.



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