Patients With Alzheimer Disease Negatively Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

In this interview, the second of a two-part series, Tabby Khan, MD, MPH, medical director at Komodo Health, discusses the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). She also talks about how telehealth helped AD patients get care during the pandemic and about current research in the field.

Komodo Health compared its research from 2020 and 2021 and saw an 18 percent increase in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease among patients between 45 and 65 years of age. Because Alzheimer’s diagnoses are rising in this younger population, clinicians need to pay more attention to cognitive decline happening in younger patients as well as the typical over-65 age of diagnosis.

Komodo’s new data also showed that patients over 89 years of age had a nearly 27 percent decrease in AD diagnoses, which contrasts previous findings from Komodo Health researchers. When it came to gender, women were diagnosed with AD twice as much as men—which the researchers chalk up to the fact that women live longer than men.

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected people with Alzheimer’s disease. “COVID-19 was very isolating for a lot of people. It was much more exacerbated in patients that struggle with their activities of daily living who have memory deficits,” Dr. Khan said. “Nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where a lot of patients [with Alzheimer’s] live, were hit pretty hard by COVID-19 and I think it truly did have an impact.

Dr. Khan also wondered if the 27% decrease in Alzheimer’s diagnoses in people over 89 years of age was a result of hesitancy to go to the doctor unless it was an emergency because of COVID-19. “We’ve seen a lot of people postpone care, and this is some of what Komodo has published around the impact of COVID-19,” she said.

During the pandemic, telehealth provided access to care for a lot of patients who wouldn’t otherwise have it. However, Khan believes that medical appointments should be a combination of telehealth and in-person visits.

“I think that telehealth is a great screening tool and, specifically, if we can figure out a way to do a lot of this neuropsychosocial testing, it may really hele these older patients,” said Dr. Khan. “I think [telehealth] has potential specifically in the Alzheimer’s therapeutic area, but there’s still a lot we have to work out first.”

One of those things is how race is inextricably connected with social determinants of health. It’s common knowledge that patients of color have a lot more trouble connecting to the healthcare system to get the services they need. Dr. Khan believes that there are many factors that go into health inequity, and that we need to ensure that all patients have reasonable access.

“Komodo’s mission is to reduce the global burden of disease. Alzheimer’s is a disease that has extremely high morbidity as it has a tremendous impact on individual patients, as well as their families…This is a call to action more than anything else and prompts us to do more to look into it,” Dr. Khan concluded.

Read the full interview here.