A new government report highlights the distressing impact the pandemic has had on older adults with dementia. Data collected from more than 28 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in parts A and B (also known as fee-for-service [FFS] beneficiaries) shows that those with dementia are more likely to contract COVID-19 and die from the disease than the general Medicare population.
Between Feb. 28 and Sept. 27 of last year, 166,485 beneficiaries with dementia (8.8 percent) were diagnosed with COVID-19, compared with 2.4 percent of all Medicare FFS beneficiaries, the report found. And 53,490 beneficiaries with dementia died from COVID-19 during the study period — a 32.1 percent mortality rate — accounting for nearly 45 percent of all deaths among the Medicare FFS population.
Among 14 common health conditions — including chronic kidney disease, cardiac disorder and obesity — people with dementia had the highest rates for COVID-19 diagnosis and death.
COVID-19 Mortality Rates by Underlying Condition
Data based on Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries
- Dementia, 32.1 percent
- Chronic kidney disease, 28.9 percent
- End-stage renal disease, 27.3 percent
- Immune deficiency, 26.1 percent
- Severe neurological condition, 24.7 percent
- Cancer, 24.3 percent
- Cardiac disorder, 24.2 percent
- Other respiratory disease, 24.2 percent
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 21.4 percent
- Diabetes, 20.7 percent
- Hypertension, 15.8 percent
- Obesity, 15.7 percent
- Breast/prostate cancer, 15.4 percent
- HIV/AIDS, 14.9 percent
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report
What's more, it didn't seem to matter where the beneficiaries with dementia lived. Despite the devastatingly high number of COVID-19 deaths seen in nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country, COVID-19 death rates were “essentially the same” among those with dementia living in the community (31.4 percent) and those living in nursing homes (32.5 percent).
After controlling for factors including living arrangements, age and chronic conditions, researchers found the likelihood of being diagnosed with COVID-19 was 1.5 times greater for adults with dementia; the risk of dying was 1.6 times higher.
"It is important for the public — including people living with dementia, family caregivers, and providers — to understand the heightened risk of mortality among this population,” the report's authors write. They add that the lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic can help inform actions in future pandemics, “as well as approaches to seasonal influenzas.”