New research shows the damaging effect of COVID-19 isolation measures on the cognition and mental health of people living with dementia


A systematic review of research studies has shown the damaging effects that COVID-19 isolation measures have had on the cognition, function and mental health of people with dementia. Published on 31 July in the EClinicalMedicine journal, the systematic review synthesises evidence from 15 studies published during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (to 27 February, 2021), comprising all the available quantitative data on the effect of COVID-19 related isolation measures on the cognitive, psychological and functional health of people with dementia.  The 15 publications include community-based and care home-based studies in Argentina, Brazil, France, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, involving over 6,400 people with dementia.  

Of the 13 studies involving people living with dementia in the community, 61% reported a decline in cognition in a proportion of the population studied. Concentration, memory, orientation and communication were the most frequently-affected cognitive domains. Almost all of these studies also reported worsening or new onset of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, with half of the studies reporting adjustment of pharmacological treatment for these symptoms (e.g. introduction of antipsychotics). Although only two studies on the effect of isolation on care home residents with dementia were identified, these similarly reported worsening memory, depression and anxiety in over 50% of residents.  

The authors conclude by underlining the importance of considering the harms of public health measures for people with dementia, calling for: caregivers to be prioritised for vaccines; improved work-life balance policies for family caregivers; and the restoration of routines, support, care home visits and therapeutic activities for people with dementia, for example via outdoor visits and the use of personal protective equipment. The Open Access article can be found here: