RNI says COVID-19 has impacted Alzheimer’s treatment and research

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the healthcare field in many ways, and one sector that has been gravely affected because of the virus is Alzheimer’s treatment.

This is according to Dr. Ali Rezai, the Executive Chair of the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) who said the impact on patients and their families has been significant.

“People are more isolated they’re not getting interaction with their loved ones as much because of social distancing and being isolated and that has impacted Alzheimer’s care and management,” Rezai said. “More patients have passed away with Alzheimer’s as compared to before.”

As a result of the pandemic, Rezai said, between March and June, RNI had to stop enrolling new patients in their latest clinical trial using focused ultrasound to treat Alzheimer’s. He said they continued taking care of patients they were already treating, but being shut down for a few months was inconvenient.

However, RNI was able to resume its work in June and is now fully operational, having brought on new subjects.

Treating Alzheimer’s is essential, Rezai said, because it takes a significant toll on both the patients and their loved ones. In a show of support of the struggle faced, RNI is lighting the top of their building purple for World Alzheimer’s Month, which is September.

Right now in America, Rezai said, five million people are suffering from the disease and at this rate, that number is expected to triple by 2050. More than 38,000 people in West Virginia have Alzheimer’s and as a result, more than 100,000 family members and friends are having to provide care. All this is to say that there is a great need for care nationwide and locally, in West Virginia and RNI hopes to provide that care, Rezai said.

These individuals need access to care and they need to be managed by physicians and teams who are helping them and often these people may not be diagnosed optimally and may not know how to get a coordinated comprehensive assessment. That’s why also as another effort we have now formed the first comprehensive memory health center in the state, here at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. It is a collaborative center that is the first of its kind in the state, where we have multidisciplinary clinical research, education services for patients and their families who are impacted by memory and cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Ali Rezai – Executive Chair, RNI

Rezai said RNI has brought together geriatric specialists, neurologists, psychiatrists, therapists, social workers and other professionals to truly provide comprehensive care at their facilities. This way every step from the diagnosis to the treatment, to helping families and loved ones cope is covered.

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