Corona for someone with a dementia

Corona or COVID-19, is a viral flu like condition that is highly contagious if a person is in close or direct contact with an infected person.  It is not airborne and travels only through the tiny droplets of water in a sneeze or cough.  It can be picked up on hands from a surface that was coughed on, and when the person touches their infected hand to their face, they will become infected.  Social distancing keeps people out of the reach of the cough or sneeze of another.  The distance required is 1-2 meter, which is around 3-6 feet.

For people who do become infected, around 80% will have very mild symptoms or could be virtually symptomless and can be cared for at home whilst the virus runs its course.  The remaining 20% of people that become infected can suffer from serious health problems and are likely to require hospital admission.  The treatment protocol for these people is to support their bodies to allow their immune system to fight the virus.  Most commonly this is help breathing, such as oxygen or may include intubation in the more serious cases.

COVID-19 badly affects people with underlying health conditions that affect breathing, heart or immunity and dementia may not be a disease that puts the person into an “at risk” group.  If the person with dementia is otherwise fit and healthy, then even if they were to become infected, they might be part of the 80% of infected people who have only very mild symptoms.  However, a person with dementia might be more at risk of catching it, due to forgetting to take the necessary precautions to avoid infection.  They might therefore be unwell for a couple of weeks and require care at home whilst they recover from the symptoms of the virus.  And again, because of forgetting, they might not take the home remedies that will make their recovery easier.

A person with a dementia might also have another health issue, as 65% of people with a dementia do have other health problems.  Depending on what the other condition is, they may be at risk of becoming seriously unwell if they were to catch COVID-19.  Or their dementia might be sufficiently advanced that they are very poorly and frail in any event and at risk for that reason.  The high-risk group, which is around 20% of people who become infected are likely to need hospital treatment.  Death rates in the UK are estimated at around 0.6-1%, but they are predominantly people who have other underlying health conditions.

The modelling done on the disease has estimated that up to 80% of the population of the UK may eventually be infected with COVID-19, but this is all unclear.  It is hoped that a vaccination will be available in the future, but that is months away.  If 80% of the UK is infected, it will build up “herd immunity”, which will reduce the likelihood of outbreaks within a community that has developed this immunity, which in turn will prevent it being passed on.

So, should you worry?

Dementia might not be the issue to worry about in respect of COVID-19, but it might.  The issue is are you one of the 80%, the 20% or the 1%?  Or do you know anyone who are likely to be in the 20% or 1%?

The uncertainty is making people anxious, with some are very fearful.  They might have good reason to be concerned, but their anxiety might be based on rumours and unscientific worries.  Whether someone has cause for concern or not, the anxiety that some people feel is very real.

If you are likely to be part of the 20% that will become very unwell, then take the precautions that you think are necessary to keep you safe and well.  If you know someone who is likely to be part of this 20%, then take care around them, the consequences could be very serious.

Dementia itself isn’t necessarily the issue, the health problems that are at higher risk are heart disease, lung disease and immunosuppressant diseases.  Dementia might make what would have been a mild case worse, as the person might self-neglect, and therefore might need support to take care of themselves.  If you know someone who needs support, then check in on them and make sure that they are OK, using the distance and infection control measure necessary to ensure that they are safe.

So, to answer my earlier question about should you worry about dementia and COVID-19?  Maybe!

Be well.