During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been reporting data on “excess deaths,” or the number of deaths above what is considered average for a certain time.

Many epidemiologists believe measuring excess deaths is the best way to assess the impact of the virus in real time. The current CDC data is aimed at showing how COVID-19 is altering normal patterns of mortality.

The number of deaths attributable to Alzheimer’s and dementia during the current pandemic is particularly concerning. The number of deaths above average in this disease category far exceeds all categories reported by the CDC. In fact, through the end of September, there have been at least 31,047 more deaths due to Alzheimer’s or another dementia nationwide than would be expected normally.  

A recent Alzheimer’s Association analysis of CDC data indicates that during the COVID-19 pandemic there have been 304 more deaths from Alzheimer’s and dementia in Iowa than expected – a 13.9 percent increase compared to the five-year average. 

 Individuals living with Alzheimer’s, particularly those living in long-term care (LTC) settings, are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. These individuals are older, live in communal settings and often have underlying chronic conditions putting them at higher risk for the virus.

As of Nov. 2 in Iowa, there are currently 76 COVID-19 outbreaks in LTC facilities according to the Iowa Coronavirus web site. The total number of deaths in LTC amount to 835, which accounts for 49 percent of the total deaths from COVID-19 in Iowa. 

This is almost 10 percent more than the national average of 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths that are linked to nursing homes and other LTC settings according to recent reports.

The Alzheimer’s Association is concerned about this alarming trend and is calling on state lawmakers to implement rapid testing and other safety protocols to protect these vulnerable individuals.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease – the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. In Iowa alone, there are more than 66,000 people living with the disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Its mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia – by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. 

Visit alz.org or call 800-272-3900.