People are not just dying from COVID, but the quarantine’s–while necessary–did exacerbate mental health issues for many individuals. This is especially true for individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia. This American Life‘s had a recent episode showing how isolation likely accelerated the downward spiral of the narrator’s grandmother, who suffered from dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association found that 46,000 more people died from dementia this past year than on average in each of the last five years. They call these excess deaths, people who might not have died if it had been a normal year. We could have predicted this.
We’ve known for years that isolation can lead people living with dementia to rapid deterioration and death. And we isolated them anyway. Another term that’s been used is collateral deaths– people who didn’t die directly from COVID, but as a byproduct of it. I hate those terms– excess death, collateral death, like these deaths somehow fall outside the bounds of the deaths we care about.
Eventually, in September, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reversed their guidelines to allow in visitors in cases where people really needed them, for people who were having trouble eating or drinking and people in emotional distress,
While the direct impact of COVID is obvious, one should not ignore these collateral deaths due to social isolation.