In Truth, Lies & Alzheimer’s – Its Secret Faces, behavioral specialist Lisa Skinner and co-author Douglas Collins devote two entire chapters on how the COVID-19 pandemic isolation triggered faster declines in cognitive health due to loneliness and not being connected. Singer and songwriter Phil Vassar shares his personal story in a chapter called “Bringing Mom Home” which details how his family was proactive during the course of Alzheimer’s disease and had a plan in place for each stage of it.
“We are social beings and need to interact with those we are close to and care about, but all that was taken away after COVID,” writes Phil Vassar. “Her isolation came directly out of the COVID situation. I believe isolation is like solitary confinement. It’s a punishment, a torture. Solitude is a terrible thing, and we weren’t going to let that happen to our mother.”
Author Lisa Skinner adds, “There’s power in those moments when we realize our true value and take action to live in a way that reflects those values. Our memories are the threads that sew our lives together in sequence and continuity.”
As the pandemic has wreaked havoc on our mental and physical health, it is also quietly reshaping how Americans will face retirement and old age in the years to come. The pandemic exposed “how shockingly inadequate our care infrastructure and systems are and how essential access to home care is,” said Aijen Poo, advocate for caregivers.
“When the overall brain is beginning to fail, the body seems to be less able to have the full ability to respond and recover to an illness,” explains Skinner. “The evidence to date indicates that older adults with dementia have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and, once infected, have a high risk of disease-related morbidity and mortality.”
Ezekiel Emanuel, a task force member for President Biden, said that “you will see a lot more focus on aging at home and figuring out how to shift the financial incentives to make that work.”
A big reason for the increase in Alzheimer’s and similar diseases is that the U.S. population is aging as the baby boom generation moves into retirement. Age is considered the greatest risk factor for dementia, with women accounting for about two-thirds of the cases (in part because they live longer than men).
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