Alzheimer’s Disease, as Well as Coronavirus, Are Concerns for the Elderly Populations

June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month

June 16, 2020

MERCERVILLE - While coronavirus poses a substantial threat to the health of older individuals, another concern is Alzheimer's disease, which is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Unfortunately, the symptoms of Alzheimer's develop slowly and can increase in severity over time. This can impact a person's ability to perform daily activities, such as handwashing, or the ability to process information or guidance, such as social distancing. As a result, many older people in the later stages of Alzheimer's are either residential or nursing home residents. According to The Alzheimer's Association, 48 percent of nursing home residents are living with dementia and 42 percent of residents in residential care facilities have Alzheimer's. Individuals with Alzheimer's or other types of dementia are at higher risk of contracting coronavirus due to living in close proximity to other people and having a weakened immune system. Therefore, people with Alzheimer's are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases due to their age, the communal nature of their living accommodations and the likelihood of other coexisting conditions.

According to NewBridge Services, a mental healthcare agency in northern New Jersey and member of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA), Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Scientists currently believe that the brain's plaques and tangles play a role in blocking communication between nerve cells, which also disrupts the processes that cells need to survive. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease. Due to symptoms developing in the early stages of the disease and a possible awareness of declining ability, people commonly experience anxiety and depression, according to the Alzheimer's Society. A 2012 study from researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Rochester states that people with dementia who also experience depression or have a history of inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations are at a greater risk for suicide.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues facing us today, it's important to give support to older people who have Alzheimer's disease. It could be difficult for people to access help and resources. When caring for an individual with Alzheimer's, it's important to prepare for future challenges by developing a support plan. This includes making use of available resources, planning care, coping with changes in communications in a compassionate manner, practicing relaxation techniques, and developing routines. Therefore, it's important to consider people with Alzheimer's in mental health and addiction conversations, as well as to help family, friends and neighbors living in the community," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of NJAMHAA.

Each year on the summer solstice- the day of the year with the most sunlight, which is Saturday, June 20 this year, the Alzheimer's Association promotes an event called "The Longest Day". Participants in the event "help stand up to the darkness of Alzheimer's" by partaking in activities of their choice to raise funds that will support care, support and research. Everyone is encouraged to participate in Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month by sharing a photo on social media using the #ENDALZ or #EndAlzheimers. In addition, the Alzheimer's Association can be followed on social media at "alzassociation" to recommended actions to take throughout June.

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