Dear Editor:

On a recent Saturday, I was reminded again of the burden COVID-19 places on our oldest and most fragile.

A dear friend posted a picture on social media, of herself with her octogenarian father, garbed up in their opposing red and blue jerseys and brandishing their fists in a mock fight, as the Georgia-Florida game lit up the TV behind them. I commented, hoping she had sprung him from memory care for the game. The picture was a few years old, my friend replied, adding that the isolation caused by COVID was devastating to her father.

As a dementia caregiver trainer and support group facilitator, I hear stories like these all the time. This pandemic affects the lives of all Americans, but families impacted by dementia are hit especially hard. Forty percent of all COVID-19 deaths are staff or residents in long-term care. My friend does not know whether she’ll ever get to hug her father again.

The number of deaths from Alzheimer’s and dementia during the pandemic — and the percentage increase over pre-pandemic numbers — is troubling. Georgia’s 26-percent increase in deaths for those with dementia makes us the seventh highest among all states.

In observation of National Family Caregivers Month, I urge Georgia’s communities to make plans to address visitation and isolation, as families can no longer meet outdoors with winter approaching. November is also National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

Please join me and the Alzheimer’s Association in urging Gov. Brian Kemp to ensure access to rapid-testing equipment and supplies in all our long-term care communities.

Cloud Conrad

Winder

Advocacy volunteer, Alzheimer’s Association

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