The COVID Impact on the Future of Dementia Care
Healthcare and long-term living assistance are changing now more than ever.
The healthcare field to the rescue:
Thousands of healthcare professionals have lived each and every day of the last year in a world that revolves around one singular topic: COVID.
As a leader of a senior care campus in West Michigan, I know that our team here at St. Ann’s has lived it firsthand and heard about it from peers in the field.
Every part of our job as a long-term care facility was affected by COVID-19. How we treat our patients, our staff, and visitors, and contractors had to change, and we quickly learned how to manage our time more efficiently to get more work done with limited teams.
And though our workplace might look a little different than yours, we all share one burning question: What will the world look like after COVID?
We can’t be sure what to expect, but we can prepare ourselves now for whatever happens.
We, industry leaders in long-term care, have already set our sights on the potential demand for senior services in this unknown “post-COVID” era. We know that prior to the pandemic, nearly 1 in 10 American seniors lived with a form of dementia1.
But what does that mean for those who suffered through a COVID diagnosis? Are there immediate effects? Are there hidden after-effects? And most important, how can we give you any measure of confidence that we will be ready to help?
Nobody knows the extent of what’s to come, but St. Ann’s team is more prepared than most, devoting our time and effort to being ready if and when you need us. Here’s what we do know:
There is already much speculation centered on the real or potential effects of COVID, and how they may be a precursor to future cognitive decline and even an increased risk of dementia down the road3. There is evidence that roughly 30% of those diagnosed with COVID, regardless of their age, are experiencing these effects and thus have earned the title of “long-haulers”6.
If that is not enough, there are other concerns that arise from the symptoms one sometimes experiences through a bout of COVID, such as episodes of delirium. A vast number of people who test COVID-positive actually experience at least one instance of delirium. This is concerning because studies have shown that even a single episode of delirium can increase the risk of dementia later in life and may exacerbate the disease process in those already diagnosed with dementia2.
Moreover, we are seeing reports that as many as 82% of COVID sufferers say they experienced neurological symptoms5. These reports of neurological symptoms are especially troubling as we learn more about the potential for COVID sufferers to be at a higher risk of Parkinson’s Disease down the road.
Of course, we aren’t saying this to cause alarm. In fact, we hope that the pandemic will have less of an effect on those who have survived it than we’ve predicted. But being prepared for the serious, long-lasting effects is what our team at St. Ann’s is doing to ensure that we’ve got your back.
Our team here at St. Ann’s cares for many residents in our long-term units with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (PDD), since approximately 80% of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s, unfortunately, progress to this stage in the disease4. While this is a tragic statistic, this firsthand experience provides our teams with vital insights into the many facets of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Rest assured that, while the world is grasping for straws trying to handle the effects of the pandemic, St. Ann’s experience with long-term care and specifically dementia care helps shape our plan for the post-COVID healthcare world.
How we can help
We are among the health care providers tasked – now more than ever – with providing compassion and expertise for the pending “silver tsunami” of area residents who will turn to senior care options.
This wave will include:
→ as expected, those 55 and older
→ a significant number of healthcare providers as they retire or even exit the field altogether, as a result of the fears and stressors of working in the field during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We also recognize that among those who will start to look for senior care, there will always be a number of people who learn they need dementia care. We expect that soon there will be a number who will need both “traditional dementia care” and innovative care for their post-COVID symptoms. Luckily, we are devoting time, resources, and training to ensuring we are ready to handle this challenge.
As West Michigan more fully enters this new era, we vow to keep our focus on high-quality care for seniors. Their happiness and safety are our number one priority and always will be.
Could technology aid our transition into the world post-COVID?
As we, like many of you, ponder what is around the corner, we must remind you that senior care organizations were becoming more open to the use of smart technologies and home automation devices (even before the pandemic).
Could it be that we as an industry will expand even further by introducing other forms of artificial intelligence into our routines, such as robotic assistance devices?
As we learn more and are updated on technology, we will also keep you and your family in the know. There is no telling what the future holds for the healthcare field, but we do know that it is full of some of the strongest, smartest, and most innovative minds in the world.
Rest assured that we will rise to the challenge, and take the best possible care of our oldest generation as we navigate the consequences of the pandemic.
Let’s work together.
The future of senior care is upon us, driven largely by our aging population and, in part, by the effects of the pandemic. Our best option, then, is to walk together into this new era.
We invite you to call or email us to learn more about how our experience and innovations will shape the future and discuss options available to you.
To learn more about St. Ann’s dementia care, please contact us below
Written by: Dana Prince, Ph.D., LNHA
- Alzheimer’s Association. 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s Dementia 2019;15(3):321-87.
- Arnold, C. (2020, December 02). Could COVID delirium bring on dementia? Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.nature.com/
- Crouch, M. (2021, January 05). Could COVID-19 increase your risk of dementia? Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.aarp.org/health/
conditions-treatments/info- 2021/covid-19-dementia-link. html
- Holland, K., & Clark, C. (2020, November 19). Understanding Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/
- Northwestern Medicine. (2020, October 5). First-of-its-kind study examines the frequency and severity of NEUROLOGIC manifestations in patients hospitalized With COVID-19 in the United States. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.nm.org/about-us/
northwestern-medicine- newsroom/press-releases/2020/ study-examines-frequency-of- neurologic-manifiestations-in- COVID-patients
- Yu, C. (2021, March 22). Study probes the ‘long-haul’ effects of covid-19. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://hub.jhu.edu/2021/03/