CARMEL -- It is data behind the reality. The Alzheimer’s Association released the ‘2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures’ report on Tuesday, which provided context on how the pandemic impacted dementia patients and caregivers.
“It is almost like putting them in prison. Putting us in prison,” Sholeh Hourmozdi said. The Carmel mother and daughter has acted as her parents', Parvin and Shapour, caregiver for years.
Both of her parents live with dementia and live together in a memory care facility. Isolation during the pandemic, Hourmozdi said, has hurt both her parents and herself.
“They feel very lonely. My dad says, ‘When can you come in, I can’t take care of your mom anymore.’ He thinks that he’s taking care of mom,” Hourmozdi said.
Hourmozdi and her family came to the United States during the Iranian Revolution. She said her dad was a self-made man. He owned movie theaters in Iran. Her mom, she said was the caregiver and ‘memory’ for the family. Fast-forward to the 2000s and her mom became a U.S. citizen.
“Even today that she has forgotten her English, she still think she’s speaking English even though she’s speaking Farsi and she always goes around and says, ‘I’m an American citizen, I’m an American citizen!’ “ Hourmozdi said with a laugh.
Since lockdown, the lack of socialization, communication and visitation, she said has taken a toll on her parents. Her mother has regressed to where no longer remembers how to drink water and Hourmozdi said her mom has also lost 29 pounds. Both parents, who learned English as a second language, struggle to communicate.
Hourmozdi recalled: “She constantly tells me, ‘Where are you? I feel so lonely.’ And one time she told me I cried all night. ‘What did I do? Everybody left me.’ ”
“These numbers, the facts and figures data, I believe is a unifier. It makes us feel that we are not alone,” Hadya Sow, Senior Program Manager with the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Indiana, said.
The ‘Facts and Figures’ report details a 16% jump in dementia and Alzheimer’s related deaths nationwide. In Indiana, that number is a 14% increase.
“It has been eye-opening to see,” Sow said. COVID-19 has also impacted caregivers. Hourmozdi is one of an estimated more than 11 million across the U.S.
“Within our support groups we hear from a lot of them that they feel distant from their family members, they are concerned about how their loved ones are able to receive care,” Sow said.
In 2020, 110,000 Hoosiers had dementia and by 2025, that number is projected to grow by 18%, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Hourmozdi said she continues to fight for legislation she believes will help both those living with and caring for dementia.
Within the 2020 facts and figures report, two national surveys detailed discrimination as a barrier for access to dementia care. The ‘Race, Ethnicity and Alzheimer’s in America’ special report found 66% of Black Americans, 40% of Native Americans, 39% of Hispanic Americans and 34% of Asian Americans believe it is harder to find care for Alzheimer’s and dementia.