COVID-19 and Dementia: Imagining the Future with a Vaccine

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October 14, 2020 - Virginia Biggar

With the national conversation focused on when a vaccine for COVID-19 might be approved and available,  our recent UsAgainstAlzheimer’s A-LIST® survey asked the Alzheimer’s community about how their lives might change with an available vaccine.

The September survey showed that 60 percent of survey respondents intend to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available. That’s nearly double the percentage of respondents in a recent national survey, but it still reflected concern that the vaccine development and testing was being rushed for political reasons.

No community is being harder hit by a non-infectious disease in the middle of the COVID-19 global pandemic than Alzheimer’s patients, particularly those living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. With nearly half of all long-term care facility residents living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, individuals living with the disease have become one of the groups most disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19 in the country.

But doubts about the vaccine remain. Comments by respondents in our September survey showed that they would be more likely to get the vaccine when it had been tested more and had the support of scientists and doctors.

“I would need to be assured that its safety has been verified and that it hasn't been rushed to market for political purposes,” wrote one respondent to our survey.

Our A-LIST survey also asked respondents, “How do you imagine your life will change, once a vaccine is available?” Their answers reflect a mix of skepticism, cautious optimism, and hope for a return to normalcy. Here is a sample of what they told us.

See Family and Friends, Having Fun

“I will be able to go wherever I want to and with whomever I want to.”

“People will have less fear about being in contact with each other. With less fear there is more room for love, fun and being helpful.”

“I can see my grandkids.”

“I hope that it will allow me to start visiting my wife who is in a quarantined care center.”

“It will allow for a more complete restoration of all economic activities.”

“I'm hoping to be able to play in a large concert band or orchestra again.”

“I will be able to travel to England to see my mother who has brain cancer.”

“Pray we can return to normal family and friends gatherings! Will be able to take my 91-year old mom out of the house again after many months!”

“I will not fear enclosed facilities if I do have a mask. I will be more socially outgoing & start traveling again!!”

“Maybe I can start shopping for my parents' and our, groceries.  Maybe I can ride my bike more frequently.  Maybe I can enjoy a live music event, if there are any clubs still open.  Maybe I can finally SEE my friends again.  Maybe I can visit my BFF on Maui.  Maybe I can sleep a little better.”

“I can go back to volunteering, perhaps to in-person support groups, maybe have a real dinner party.

“I have not seen my daughter and her family since February, except via Zoom, due to the fact that she is a nurse and COVID numbers remain high at her hospital. So I will be able to hug her and her family! My husband and I can resume our very active lives at church and in our community and with our family.”

“I hope that our world will go back to the way [it was] they were before COVID.”

No Immediate Change

“I will wait to ensure enough people get the vaccine and that it is effective before I venture out.”

“I will still be careful until most individuals have been vaccinated.  I grew up during the polio time.”

“I’m in health care. So not much. No mask perhaps. Hopefully, it will be available quickly and have permanent effect.  I’m sure many won’t get it, so COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon.”

“Not much. My life is stuck at home as sole caregiver for my 90-year old spouse who is unable to walk.”

“I believe I will continue to protect my family and myself by distancing and wearing a mask for some time after the vaccine.”

More Normalcy

“Restaurants, malls, schools, etcetera will open up; social events will take place; we can go back to church. We can relax like we did when the polio vaccine was found effective many years ago.”

“Go back to work; kids go back to school.”

“Hoping to feel more comfortable and safe working in my current job.”

“Normalcy will return – face-to-face visits with my mom (who I [worry] will be dead of COVID by then as there is an outbreak in her facility). Hugs.”

“Be able to get out and do things without being tense about being around people.”

“I’ll enjoy eating out again.”

Less Stress, Anxiety and Isolation

“As my friends and relatives and I feel more confident about our immunity, we'll increase the amount of time we spend visiting in person.  That will be an emotional benefit to us all.”

“I'm fortunate to live in an area that has had relatively low impact, but I look forward to the vaccine providing a sense of protection. I think my stress level will be reduced.”

“I will be able to leave the house with the baby.”

“I will hire more home health care help.”

“I will return to a social life as opposed to being a hermit.”

“I hope to feel more comfortable sending (my) loved one to day care.”

“More peace of mind.”

Thank you to all of our respondents. On October 21st at 3:30 p.m. EDT, we will share the results of the seventh in our series of A-LIST surveys researching the impact of the pandemic on our community, including how respondents expect to manage the upcoming holiday season. This will be done during a Town Hall session at the UsAgainstAlzheimer’s National Summit. Registration is free – Click here to sign up and learn more.

About the Author


Virginia Biggar

Ginny Biggar is Executive Director of Communities at UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.