There were almost 10,000 unexplained extra deaths among people with dementia in England and Wales in April, according to official figures that have prompted alarm about the severe impact of social isolation on people with the condition.
The data, from the Office for National Statistics, reveals that, beyond deaths directly linked to COVID-19, there were 83% more deaths from dementia than usual in April, with charities warning that a reduction in essential medical care and family visits were taking a devastating toll.
“It’s horrendous that people with dementia have been dying in their thousands,” said Kate Lee, chief executive officer at Alzheimer’s Society. “We’ve already seen the devastating effect of coronavirus on people with dementia who catch it, but our [research] reveals that the threat of the virus extends far beyond that.”
The charity thinks the increased numbers of deaths from dementia are resulting partly from increased cognitive impairment caused by isolation, the reduction in essential care as family carers cannot visit, and the onset of depression as people with dementia do not understand why loved ones are no longer visiting, causing them to lose skills and independence, such as the ability to speak or even stopping eating and drinking.
Another factor may be interruptions to usual health services, with more than three-quarters of care homes reporting that GPs have been reluctant to visit residents.
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Source: The Guardian, 5 June 2020