COVID-19 clusters at nursing homes fuel push for more support of patients with Alzheimer's, dementia

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Following recent reports of COVID-19 clusters at care facilities in Wichita and around Kansas, there's a new push for better safety regulations at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

It's not news that assisted living facilities and nursing homes host an already-at-risk population, but beyond the risks associated with age and people who may be immunocrompromised, comes another high-risk category one group hopes lawmakers can help to protect.

"We know that 48 percent of the individuals who are in nursing homes have either Alzheimer's or some other kind of dementia. And these individuals are at a greater risk for COVID-19," says Alzheimer's Association Kansas State Director of Communications Juliette Bradley.

Bradley says most of those impacted by COVID-19 are older than 65 and typically have chronic health conditions.

"So they already have some other kind of condition going on. And then thirdly, just the communal setting of a long-term care facility typically is people close together."

Many patients with Alzheimer's or dementia can't advocate for themselves, so Bradley is urging others to advocate for them.

"We really believe that long-term care facilities need rapid testing on site for individuals who live there, their staff members and the visitors," Bradley says. "That is number one."

The Alzheimer's Association also wants lawmakers to mandate immediate reporting of positive COVID-19 cases in care facilities to identify hot spots. The association also wants assurance that proper protective equipment is available to caregivers who are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19.

"We keep talking about individuals who have Alzheimer's, but really, we have to remind ourselves that we account for two to three caregivers for each one of those," Bradley says.

The Alzheimer's Association hopes others will ask lawmakers to make these improvements happen to better protect patients and caregivers as soon as possible.