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Collateral Damage From COVID-19 Leads To Early Death For Thousands Of Alzheimer's Patients

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — For the first time since the pandemic struck, startling new numbers have been released about how far-reaching this virus has become.

Tens of thousands of people who never got coronavirus are dying far more quickly than they would have. People living with Alzheimer's and their families have become collateral damage in this devastating outbreak.

It's hard to imagine a disease that slowly strips the mind of memories and robs loved ones of the joy of growing old together getting any worse than it already is. But COVID-19 has done just that for Stockton couple Teresa Mandella and her husband Frank.

The pandemic has slowly been chipping away at the last remnants of normalcy.

"I was going about every other day and spending time, walking with him a lot," Teresa said.

For Frank, who lives in a memory care facility, seeing his wife was the routine he needed to avoid sinking deeper into the depths of dementia.

"The last eight months, however, are quite different," she said.

Frank has declined at a more rapid pace. For others, it's been even worse. According to research done by the Alzheimer's Association, there have been at least 30,248 more deaths than expected from Alzheimer's disease and dementia since the pandemic began.

Researchers reached that figure of more than 30,000 early Alzheimer's deaths by taking the average number of dementia-related deaths over the last five years compared to the number of dementia deaths in 2020. Anything over that average was considered an "above average" number of deaths.

The fingers of COVID's brutal grip have been far-reaching.

"People are declining at a steeper rate. We know that we're seeing that first-hand from people like Teresa and others who call our helpline," Susan DeMarois, Director of Public Policy for the Alzheimer's Association, said.

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The biggest punch in the gut in this ongoing fight is the ban on face-to-face visits.

"We were allowed to have outside visits through a fence so at least I can see him," Teresa said.

But seeing pales in comparison to the loving touch and sense of routine dementia patients need.

"We know that individuals with dementia really rely on structure and routine and repetition, and that's been taken from individuals and families right now," DeMarois said.

Families like the Mandellas, needing to hurdle an unexpected obstacle on an already rough road.

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