Isolation increasing risk of dementia, Naples Senior Center says

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jackie Winchester
Credit: Naples Senior Center

Florida has reported more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 seven times in the past two weeks. Four of those days were all in a row, from this past Friday through Monday.

Southwest Florida added 613 more cases Monday, bringing its total cases since March to more than 20,000.

More positive cases are especially bad news for the elderly, some of whom are beginning to get false hope that things are getting better.

The Naples Senior Center has seen an uptick in need for their dementia service, and patients they have been serving are getting worse. They said some seniors are being placed in long-term care facilities.

One couple is thankful to have each other, despite the obstacles they’re facing.

“Dementia is a disease that causes loneliness because people withdraw and now it’s even worse,” said Diane Goldstein of Bonita Springs.

She and her husband Bob, isolation is taking a toll when they, like many other seniors, were once able to be out and about.

“We lost that,” said Dorothy Bergese.

“Not being able to socialize and other people to talk to,” said Ed Somma.

Ed Somma and Dorothy Borgese said they miss the programs that kept them engaged and active at the Naples Senior Center.

“We sort of went backwards, mentally and physically,” Borgese said.

The center runs programs online, but lately, Dr. Jaclynn Faffer has seen a scary trend: more patients with dementia.

“We have increased our services dramatically in terms of our virtual platform,” Faffer said, and she said those with dementia who used to come to the center have deteriorated.

“To the point where their families reluctantly have had to place them in long-term care facilities.”

Some like Goldstein blame the loss of structure.

“We had a pattern in our lives before the pandemic. My husband would go to the senior center twice a week,” she said.

Studies show isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of mortality.

“My outlook is it’s going to be very rough for a long time but were going to have to accept that,” Goldstein said.

Battling COVID-19 and isolation, these seniors just hope they can get through while at home together.

The Naples Senior Center said the pandemic is also very difficult for those like Goldstein, who cares for her husband. With the center closed, caregivers aren’t able to get the help the center used to provide for them.

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