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Illustrated image of a head and brain with a virus next to it
Brighton & Sussex Medical School



Covid-19 and Dementia (COV-DEM) Study

People with dementia are more likely to catch coronavirus and are at greater risk of complications. Some of the symptoms of long Covid are similar to symptoms of dementia. At Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), we are currently conducting research to understand the impact of infection-preventative measures on vulnerable people, such as those living with dementia, hearing impairment, learning disabilities, and respiratory disorders. Despite substantial progress in understanding the virology, transmission, and pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2, many aspects related to diverse communication needs for specific population groups with learning difficulties, hearing or cognitive impairment and dementia remain unclear.

illustrated image of an older adult and their brain with a circled image of a virus next to it


The aim of the Covid-19 and Dementia study is to gain a better understanding of the impact of self-isolation, social distancing and hand washing on someone with dementia and various methods of communicating preventative measures as they can struggle with complex information. The study is funded by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and hosted by BSMS in collaboration with University College London, London School of Economics, Birkbeck College, Strathclyde University and Alzheimer's Society. We want to gain a better understanding of how cognitive frailty is perceived as a concept by the general public as well as healthcare professionals and what constitutes risk factors for cognitive frailty.


What we know

  • Covid-19 is a highly contagious respiratory virus; common symptoms include a high temperature, dry cough, loss of smell or taste, fatigue, and it may cause shortness of breath.
  • The UK Government has removed all domestic restrictions and is encouraging all UK adults to receive their booster vaccinations.
  • Some more vulnerable people, like those living with dementia, may still be choosing to “shield”. This means not leaving the house unless for essential reasons such as a medical appointment.

What we don't know

  • What is the impact of Covid-19 and other respiratory infection restrictions on those living with dementia, their families and carers?
  • What is the impact of feeling isolated as a result of preventative measures for those living with dementia or cognitive impairment?
  • How to communicate the Covid restrictions and governmental guidelines to those living with dementia and their families and carers, or those with learning disabilities and hearing impairment?

What we will do in this study

To investigate the above questions, we are conducting quantitative and qualitative interviews with various groups of vulnerable populations, such as those living with dementia, hearing impairment, learning disabilities, respiratory disorders, high blood pressure or diabetes.