While the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, especially for those 65 and older, a new study published in JAMA Neurology concludes that Medicare enrollees suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) died at higher rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mortality rates were particularly high among nursing home residents and racial minorities with ADRD.
Researchers compared 2019 to 2020 mortality rates for Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and over. Mortality rates among beneficiaries overall were 12% higher in 2020, but for beneficiaries with ADRD, the death rates were 26% higher. In nursing homes during 2020, beneficiary mortality rates were 24% higher than they were in 2019, but residents with ADRD experienced a 33% increased death toll. Furthermore, the study found that racial minorities with ADRD had even higher death rates in 2020, at 36%, 36.7%, and 40.1% for Asian, Black, and Hispanic beneficiaries, respectively.
Due to the fact that elevated mortality rates were even documented in areas of the country with very low COVID-19 infection rates, researchers concluded that older adults with ADRD, “especially those in racial and ethnic minority groups and those living in nursing homes, may be particularly susceptible to changes in health care delivery and nursing home care during ‘lockdowns’ and other restrictions during the pandemic.” In a press release, lead author on the study Dr. Lauren Gilstrap, assistant professor at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, said, “I think our findings also highlight that as a healthcare system, we really do have to think about people with cognitive limitations differently, and that more creative solutions are needed to better serve this highly vulnerable segment of society.”
March 17, 2022 – C. St. John
 Gilstrap, L., Zhou, W., Alsan, M., Nanda, A., & Skinner, J. S. (2022). Trends in Mortality Rates Among Medicare Enrollees with Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias Before and During the Early Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Neurology. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.0010
 GeiselMed. Geisel study finds higher death rates in older adults with cognitive impairment during the pandemic. EurekAlert! (February 28, 2022). Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/944897