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The Impact Social Isolation Has on Dementia Patients

The strategy of social isolation used to protect older adults from getting COVID-19 is actually having adverse effects on them, and especially on those individuals with an Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis.

According to a recent article in The Washington Post, “Doctors have reported increased falls, pulmonary infections, depression and sudden frailty in patients who had been stable for years . . . . More than 134,200 people have died from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia since March. That is 13,200 more U.S. deaths caused by dementia than expected, compared with previous years, according to an analysis of federal data by The Washington Post.”

The article shares the story of Denise Goerke, a 63-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease living in a nursing home, and her husband, Dan, the impact social isolation has had on them and his efforts to fight the debilitating effects of this isolation.

In the six months since the pandemic began, Denise has declined dramatically. Isolated from family and friends, she has lost 16 pounds, can no longer form simple words, respond to their children’s voices, nor recognize Dan on his daily visits. He says, “Every day it gets a little worse,” he said. “We’ve lost months, maybe years of her already.”

Like many families with loved ones living in assisted living communities or skilled nursing facilities, all Dan can do is “visit” from outside the lobby door or by a window. Activity programs at senior communities have come to a halt and communal dining rooms are closed, so residents must eat alone in their rooms.

Social and cognitive stimulation are proven ways to help stave off dementia, yet senior communities can’t supply these vital needs during the pandemic for residents who have a dementia diagnosis.

AFC’s New Center Without Walls

Alzheimer’s Family Center (AFC) has created a new Center Without Walls for its patients, caregivers and any older adults who are feeling lonely, socially isolated, bored or concerned about memory issues.

Our Center Without Walls’ services include:

  • Zoom Activities Program (ZAP) is a weekly calendar of brain-engaging activities (M-F, 9 am-5 pm) via Zoom videoconferencing which provide socialization, mental stimulation and are very fun! A monthly subscription fee applies.
  • Caregiver counseling for anyone caring for someone with memory loss (8 free, one-on-one therapy sessions covered by a grant from the Archstone Foundation).
  • Concierge Program provides access to our full ZAP activities program, along with monthly phone support and education from our nurses and social work team. Priority placement will be given to concierge patients when we reopen our adult day health care services on site. Monthly fee applies.
  • Outpatient group therapy sessions via Zoom are led by our clinical staff and focus on issues of aging, isolation, depression, grief, hopelessness and/or additional worries due to the pandemic. Services are covered by Medicare and many commercial insurance plans. We can assist with determining the eligibility of insurance coverage.

Please call Mary Morales, Admissions Coordinator, at 714-642-0851 to get more information about AFC’s Center Without Walls.

Click here to read the full Washington Post article.

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