Alzheimer’s Society launches Emergency Appeal
Alzheimer’s Society launches Emergency Appeal to support vulnerable people with dementia as thousands of calls received and surge in online community visits since coronavirus.
Alzheimer’s Society has launched an Emergency Appeal to ask the public to help fund vital support for people affected by dementia in the UK, who may be isolated, alone and without basic support to help them eat, wash and take medication during the coronavirus crisis. The charity currently estimates a loss of about £20 million to fundraising income this year.
The current pandemic poses a significant risk for people living with dementia, and many are now facing the next weeks and months cut off from the outside world and potentially essential care. Around 95% of people with dementia are over 65, many with underlying health conditions, and they largely rely on social care for support.
Three fifths of homecare users and 70% of people in care homes have dementia. Social care, already in crisis, is only worsening as care worker numbers lessen and care homes have to close their doors to visitors, resulting in vital care, check-ups and support being reduced.
Coronavirus is making life much harder for people affected by dementia. People are unable to get essential care, confused by losing their much-needed routines, their symptoms are deteriorating because of a lack of social contact and carers are feeling isolated and struggling to get respite.
The Emergency Appeal will raise funds to help keep the Dementia Connect support line going and extend telephone and virtual support. People affected by dementia tell us this is a lifeline for them, with thousands of them now having to cope with the suspension of all face-to-face services, stringent social distancing measures and self-isolation.
The need for Alzheimer’s Society’s services has never been more urgent. Around 80% of calls to our Dementia Connect support line are about coronavirus issues and in March alone, nearly 3,300 calls were made*. There’s been an increase of 600% in people joining our online community Talking Point in the last two weeks and around 100 more posts made per day.
People with dementia are also telling us they’re absolutely terrified of going into hospital, because they aren’t confident they’ll receive the right care following the release of NICE Covid-19 guidelines two weeks ago. Alzheimer’s Society’s asked NICE for an urgent review of these, as they suggest that all people with dementia, even mild, could be denied intensive care treatment, using the measure of those who can’t do everyday tasks like shopping, housework and managing medication on their own. We urge for the inclusion of guidance to make it clear that cognitive frailty is not discriminated against when having to make life or death decisions.
Alzheimer’s Society is working hard to continue existing services remotely, such as Singing for the Brain, and focusing on increasing telephone support via the Dementia Connect support line, by moving all frontline staff to respond to calls. The Dementia Connect support line will ensure people affected by dementia don’t have to face any challenges over the coming weeks and months alone.
Alzheimer’s Society is placing 20% of staff on either furlough or reduced hours in efforts to focus resources on frontline support. Furloughing is being kept to as low numbers as possible, while we aren’t able to top up salaries beyond the Government grant of 80%. Like all charities our income has been affected by a whole range of challenges over the past two years, not least Brexit. Prior to coronavirus, we were therefore already looking at reshaping our future structure to best serve people affected by dementia and their greatest needs.
Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Adviser Helen Payton said: “This week I have had lengthy phone calls offering people support and access to the information they need. Much of what I’m doing at the moment is emotional support – letting people talk and express their worries and frustration. Many are missing their family and worried about their care packages being reduced. One newly diagnosed person I spoke to cried when I told them I would phone them weekly to check in. They were so grateful to have someone there for them.”
Kate Lee, CEO of Alzheimer’s Society said: “We are hearing daily from people with dementia worrying how to cope, confused, isolated and unable to get food deliveries, families struggling to explain what’s going on and carers unable to visit vulnerable people in person. People affected by dementia need our support more than ever, but the coronavirus pandemic is hitting us hard - we estimate losing £20m in income over the next 12 months. We have also taken the tough decision to furlough 20% of our employees, as we have to prioritise frontline staff and ensure we focus our resources on reaching more people and supporting them in the most effective way.
“We are launching an Emergency Appeal to increase our telephone and virtual support offering, so we can continue to be there for everyone with dementia, and no-one has to face it alone.”
Service user Margaret Roberts added: “I was diagnosed in the past month with Alzheimer’s disease, so knowing someone is there at the end of a phone line is very reassuring. Physically I feel okay and look forward to going outside when I walk the dogs, but I miss socialising…it’s really nice to get to speak to someone for a bit.”
Donations to Alzheimer’s Society’s Emergency Appeal can be made online through our website at alzheimers.org.uk/emergency. Alzheimer’s Society is here for anyone affected by dementia during the coronavirus outbreak.
Via the Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456, Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Advisers provide information and practical measures on how to stay safe, active and social during this difficult time. Phone lines are open 7 days a week.