VA says its researchers will study COVID-19 in aging veterans with dementia

Photo credit Photo by Cpl. Rachel Thicklin/Defense Department Support to FEMA COVID-19

The Department of Veterans Affairs said its researchers have begun studying the effects of the coronavirus on veterans with dementia in nursing homes.

Researchers will focus the study on the possible effects of the virus on veterans in nursing homes "with cognitive decline resulting primarily from dementia." 

The study, by researchers at the Providence VA Medical Center, began earlier this month. The National Institute on Aging awarded a $184,375 grant to the VA Center for Innovation in Long-term Services and Supports, the department announced in a news release Tuesday. 

That grant will help researchers look for risk factors for the virus in those veterans, determine outcomes of intensive care use and study how the virus spreads through a nursing home. The department said it will use this knowledge "to better protect this group of patients." 

“Veterans in our (Community Living Centers) are among our most vulnerable patients,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “They’re counting on us to understand how this virus spreads and how it affects certain populations in these centers, and this timely grant will help us get there.”

The VA did not elaborate on how the study would be conducted, or how veterans with cognitive decline from dementia could consent to participate. 

Each community living center usually includes eight to 12 veterans, with some shared spaces, according to VA. 

Now, those nursing homes are using social distancing and monitoring temperatures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the department said. 

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Reach Abbie Bennett: or @AbbieRBennett.
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