HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — In Pennsylvania, there were nearly 2,000 more deaths from Alzheimer’s and dementia in 2020 than compared to averages over the past five years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter.

“Deaths attributed to COVID-19 for those with dementia has been truly harrowing to see,” said Clayton Jacobs, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter.

There are many factors that play a role in the increased amount of deaths.

“Reduced access to physicians and health care, greater difficulty in managing those other health issues, disruption of steady routine,” Jacobs said.

A recent study, led by researchers at Case Western University in Ohio, found that people with dementia are twice as likely to get COVID-19, compared to those without the disease. Dementia can make it difficult for people to remember safety protocols like mask-wearing and handwashing. Jacobs says it’s important to keep the conversation going and try to relate what’s happening now with a person’s past.

“Our older adults have been through other significant health issues and concerns and maybe not pandemic in the way we’re looking at it now, but they’ve navigated those things,” Jacobs said.

The study, also noted that patients with vascular dementia had the highest risk of getting COVID-19 and that black people with dementia were more at risk for getting the virus.

Those living in long-term care facilities were some of the most vulnerable at the beginning of the pandemic. The vaccine has helped, but Jacobs says there’s still more work to be done.

“We continue to push to ensure frontline health care workers and those living and working in long-term care have access because ultimately, vaccinating residents and staff in these settings is the critical step,” Jacobs said.