Dementia is most common pre-existing condition in 25% of COVID-19 deaths – ‘very worrying’ says MP

Research has shown dementia and Alzhiemer’s disease were the most common pre-existing conditions for people dying with coronavirus in England and Wales, with 8577 deaths – 25.3% – in March and April, which is very worrying.

As the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dementia and a founder of the Dementia Friendly Oldham campaign, I have analysed this data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and it shows the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on people with dementia.

Taking into account all pre-existing conditions, not just the main condition that contributed to the persons death, the most common pre-existing condition for people dying of Covid-19 in England and Wales, in March and April 2020, was dementia with 8,577 people. That’s a shocking 25.3% of all Covid-19 deaths.

Where dementia including Alzheimer’s disease were recorded as the main pre-existing conditions for people dying with coronavirus in England and Wales, the total was 6,887 deaths – 20.4% – in March and April.

The Government must carefully monitor this situation in order to ensure people in care homes, 70% of whom are living with dementia, are able to access critical care in hospitals or high-quality palliative care in their care home.

The ONS data shows that there were 33,841 people who died with Covid-19 recorded on their death certificates in March and April in England and Wales. 12,526 deaths were care home residents, 72.2% of whom died in the care home and 27.5% died in hospital. 14.6% of all deaths in hospital were care home residents.

This rapid increase in the rate of people dying with Covid-19 who also have dementia is consistent with the spread of Covid-19 in care homes – between 13 March and 3 April, there were 217 deaths from Covid-19 in residential care homes, but between 4 April and 1 May, there were 8,093.

Given the high prevalence of dementia in care homes, people with dementia have been particularly vulnerable as the disease has spread.

Dementia is the UK’s leading cause of death after Covid-19. Data from April, shows there were a further 9,429 deaths from dementia alone in England and 462 in Wales of people without a diagnosis of Covid-19, making dementia the second highest cause of death after Covid-19. In care homes, however dementia is still the leading cause of death.

Worryingly, the Alzheimer’s Society say that excluding Covid-19 deaths, in April deaths from dementia in England were 80% higher than usual. The charity says this is likely driven by both a number of deaths from Covid-19 of people with dementia that are not registered as such due to a lack of widespread testing in care homes and the community, and deaths of people with dementia who do not have Covid-19 due to disruption of their normal care pathway.

People in care homes, their carers and their loved ones, have been badly let down by this Government, and people living with dementia especially so. The lack of PPE for staff, and testing of residents and staff, have led to the spreading of the virus. The vital role of the care sector has been completely downplayed by the Government and will need to be addressed in any future inquiries into their handling of the pandemic.

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