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North Dakota Alzheimer’s death rate up 11% in 2020

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:00 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The North Dakota Alzheimer’s death rate was up 11% in 2020 according to the CDC, and researchers are trying to find out why.

There are 15,000 people in North Dakota living with Alzheimer’s disease, and patient care is different for every individual.

Some need round the clock care and others may just need a check-in here and there.

With COVID-19, many patients in assisted living facilities haven’t be able to see their family, which can cause additional stress.

Many assisted living patients celebrated their birthdays along with other holidays without their family last year because of COVID-19.

Some haven’t seen their family members in months.

Health care providers say this social isolation is taking a toll not only on caregivers but the patients as well.

“Providers provide excellent care and support and can do all those extra things, but if you don’t have access to those you love, they kind of lose their will,” said Whitney Rath-Wald, Bismarck CaringEdge Home Health and Hospice social services director.

While the Alzheimer’s Association says research is ongoing, they say pandemic-related challenges may have accelerated disease-related decline and deaths.

“Including reduced access to physicians and health care during this time. Greater difficulty in managing comorbid conditions. So, any other underlying health conditions and then disruption of steady routines also increases that rate of decline,” said Nikki Wegner, North Dakota Chapter Alzheimer’s Association program manager.

In order to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, officials with the Alzheimer’s Association say they are in support of the CDC’s decision to prioritize vaccines for residents and staff.

They say the vaccination process is a critical first step to reuniting families.

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