Black History Month
February 4, 2021

Dementia, COVID-19, & Disparities

During Black History Month, we celebrate how far we’ve come, honor those who have fought to bring us here, and remember those we’ve lost along the way. At End of Life Choices New York, our staff is committed to doing our part to improve quality of life at the end of life. This year, we are excited to offer a variety of programs, including an upcoming program on end of life planning for dementia specifically to serve Black New Yorkers.

Why design a program specifically for Black New Yorkers?

A recent study found that dementia patients had a significantly increased risk for COVID-19 and that risk was even higher for African Americans with dementia, as was demonstrated in review of medical records from 61.9 million hospitalized patients completed over a 6-month period in 2020. People with dementia had twice the risk of developing COVID-19 as other adults. Among people with dementia, African American patients were nearly three times as likely to be infected with COVID-19 as white patients.

The 6-month mortality risk for patients with dementia and COVID-19 was 20.99%. Hospitalization risk was 59.26%. One of the co-authors of the study, Pamela Davis, MD, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University observed, “Once infected, these patients are especially vulnerable to severe disease and death from COVID.”

These authors called for increased awareness by health care professionals of this increased risk and recommend taking additional measures to protect this vulnerable population, such as vaccination, masking, and careful attention to masking and social distancing of caregivers.

Others who have attempted to explain the increased vulnerability of Black dementia patients to COVID infections note that those with dementia are more dependent upon those around them to keep them safe from infection such as reminding them to ‘mask up’ and keeping others a social distance away.

It is also important to note that the source for these findings was hospitalized patient records. Thus these findings do not include persons who have difficulty gaining access to physicians, basic preventative medical care, and hospitals. These findings further illustrate well-known health disparities that must be addressed.

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