The effects of Covid-19 on people who contracted it have been recorded since the pandemic began and we are all well aware of them. But what effect did the pandemic restrictions have on those living with dementia? As the last of the restrictions are lifted we are finally able to fully evaluate what effects ‘keeping safe’ in the lockdown has had on our loved ones.
A recent survey from the University of Sydney, reveals that people with dementia experienced worse symptoms after the pandemic began. This is not surprising. The lockdowns and bans on visitors in group care homes has led to increased social isolation and disorientation for those living there – a lack of family visits, trips and social activities have had a very direct and obvious impact on their symptoms.
There has also been a significant impact to those who are cared for at home. A loss of access to health, respite and community services has seen a devastating effect on both those with dementia and those who care for them. Where carers might have had respite help a few times a week from a day care centre, or to singing and dancing groups, they were suddenly faced with having to stay at home, isolated from peers and getting no social engagement at all. This sadly seems to have quickly affected those with the condition, as evidence shows that people with dementia appear to have deteriorated faster than before the pandemic. The Alzheimer’s Society’s support line and Dementia UK’s Helpline have been flooded with calls from relatives reporting that their loved ones are going downhill rapidly, losing their abilities to talk or feed themselves.
In a survey of 1,001 people by the Alzheimer’s Society, an overwhelming 92% of respondents said the pandemic had accelerated their loved one’s dementia symptoms and 28% of family carers said they’d seen an ‘unmanageable decline’ in their loved ones’ health.
As well as a lack of social interaction, many people caring for their loved ones at home were forced to make agonising decisions over whether to risk keeping up with any caring support they might have received, such as help with bathing, feeding and dressing etc in case they increased the risk of being exposed to the disease. In cases where they decided not to continue any outside help, carers were faced with picking up those additional caring duties, which left many overwhelmed and exhausted. The Alzheimer’s Society’s support services were used over 3.6 million times since the start of the pandemic.
It is clear that the last two years have taken a terrible toll on the dementia community. We hope that as we move out of the pandemic, the support and funding for those living with and caring for someone with dementia are increased to help start improving lives and helping us all live well with dementia once again.