National group seeing alarming increase in deaths among vulnerable group

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The CDC is tracking a concerning trend — not just how many people are dying during the pandemic, but which population is seeing a spike.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association Central New York chapter, the CDC has been reporting deaths above average and the number of deaths attributable to Alzheimer’s/dementia during the pandemic far exceeds other categories reported by the CDC.

Through Sept. 30, there have been 31,047 more deaths nationally. The Alzheimer’s Association says New York State has seen 1,775 of those deaths (a 21.4 percent increase over the five-year mortality rate).

Courtesy: Alzheimer’s Association Central New York

The trend is also concerning doctors like Sharon Brangman, the chief of the Department of Geriatrics at Upstate Medical University.

During this time of COVID, we’ve seen an increase in death rates of people with dementia. We have seen a huge increase in deaths in nursing homes. About 40% of the COVID deaths are due to people who died in nursing home settings and many people in nursing homes have dementia. I am concerned because I see us as a society looking at who is expendable and who has value.

Doctor Sharon Brangman

Brangman said the concept of social distancing, intended to protect the vulnerable from the virus, has led to loneliness, which may be just as bad.

"So we have older adults dying not only from COVID but from loneliness and isolation, and we know that isolation and loneliness are just as dangerous as, say smoking 10 cigarettes a day," said Brangman.

Brangman said we need a national plan for testing and PPE. Those at the Alzheimer’s Association agree.

"We have been calling for long-term care policy recommendations to really protect the care and the safety of individuals living in a long-term care setting," said Chapter Executive of Alzheimer's Association Central New York, Cathy James.

The Alzheimer’s Association is certainly urging lawmakers to implement these protocols to be able to give the facilities all the necessary resources that they need to be able to implement this, and developing protocols to be able to respond to rises in cases and implementing any type of necessary reporting.

Cathy James

Along with these changes, Brangman said it’s important to find safe ways for families to be reunited with loved ones in nursing homes because the separation isn’t working.

“We have to figure out a way for families to safely visit loved ones in nursing homes because this is not something that is sustainable. But I think with a national focus and a national effort we can solve these problems,” said Brangman.

If you’re a caregiver or you’re looking for Alzheimer’s/dementia resources you can visit the Association’s website or call their 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900.

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