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The death rate of Australians with dementia fell during the Covid-19 pandemic as measures to contain the spread reduced the risk of other infections as well, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found.
The report, Dementia deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic in Australia, found the death rate was down during the first 10 months of 2020, with the difference particularly apparent during the winter months when deaths usually peak.
The AIHW looked at mortality data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to examine deaths among people who had dementia recorded on their death certificates between January and October 2020. Of the 858 people who died due to Covid-19 in that period, 30% had dementia.
But the death rate for people with dementia was slightly lower compared to the average rate over the same months during 2015–19, at 58 and 63 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively.
Institute spokeswoman Dr Fleur de Crespigny said: “Lower rates of death were particularly apparent during the winter months, when there is usually a seasonal peak in deaths of people with dementia.” This is because people living with dementia are particularly vulnerable during infectious disease outbreaks.
“Over the past year, Australia has introduced a range of measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 and treat those affected,” de Crespigny said.
These measures protected people with dementia from acquiring a range of other infectious diseases that would usually make them more vulnerable to death.
It contrasts with the experience of other developed countries such as the UK where mortality among people with dementia, even when not due to Covid-19, rose during the pandemic, she said.
Measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 included implementing social distancing and, at times, enforcing mask-wearing and lockdowns in areas where outbreaks occurred.
“While early evidence suggests that these measures have assisted in reducing deaths due to other respiratory conditions, it is important to note the impacts of social isolation and loneliness on overall wellbeing, particularly among those living in residential aged care,” de Crespigny said.
The report also found that of the 257 people with dementia who died due to Covid-19, more than half (54%) were women, and most deaths occurred among those aged 85 and over. Almost all the people with dementia who died due to Covid-19 were Victorian residents (95%), with many likely living in one of the 61 residential aged care facilities in Greater Melbourne that experienced fatal Covid-19 outbreaks. The remaining 5% of deaths were among NSW residents.
In an unknown proportion of cases, people who die with dementia do not have the condition recorded in their death certificates, so mortality data will not capture every person who dies with dementia.
Dementia is a collection of symptoms – usually progressive in nature – caused by a range of disorders affecting the brain. The prevalence of dementia increases with age, mainly occurring among those aged 65 and over, and often co-exists with other age-related conditions. The number of Australians with dementia is projected to more than double between 2020 and 2050.
In November, Dementia Australia released a discussion paper on the mental health impact of Covid-19 on people living with dementia, their families and carers in partnership with the University of Sydney, which included recommendations on what should be implemented in the long term.
The CEO of Dementia Australia, Maree McCabe, said recommendations included that a national aged care pandemic response be created, and that risk profiling for people living with dementia, their families and carers receiving aged care services be undertaken to identify particularly vulnerable groups requiring additional support.
“Adequate numbers of staff, with the right skills mix, must also be available to allow continued visits to people living with dementia in residential aged care by their families and friends,” she said.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Dementia deaths in Australia fell during Covid-19 pandemic | Health