The Government must act now to safeguard people with dementia against a second wave of coronavirus
In recent days in the light of a spike in cases, more and more care home doors have closed, leaving people with dementia distraught and isolated from those who love and support them once again, says Debbie Abrahams MP | Credit: PA Images
It is vital that we embed dementia-friendly behaviour into our communities.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
As Chair of the APPG on Dementia, I have been deeply saddened to hear from people affected by dementia about the disproportionate scale of the loss of life, and of quality of life, that has resulted from COVID-19.
Figures from Alzheimer’s Society show that those living with dementia have been among the worst hit by coronavirus.
Well over a quarter of all deaths from Covid from March to June – nearly 14,000 people - were of people living with dementia, meaning it is the most common pre-existing condition for coronavirus deaths.
Even without including deaths attributed to coronavirus, twice the number of people with dementia died at the pandemic’s peak compared to normal. Each of these deaths is a tragedy for the families and loved ones of those lost.
Armed with a growing body of evidence on the severe impact of Covid on people affected by dementia the Government must act now to safeguard people with dementia against any second wave of the virus.
Families and friends of people with dementia in Oldham and nationwide have now been separated from their loved ones for as long as six months in some instances, as the majority of care homes remain closed to visitors.
Many have had to settle for seeing loved ones through windows or as a picture on an iPad screen, causing confusion and distress for many people with dementia.
Towards the end of summer, there was a glimmer of hope for families and residents as care homes began to open up, but in recent days in the light of a spike in cases, more and more care home doors have closed, leaving people with dementia distraught and isolated from those who love and support them once again.
Care homes have reported to Alzheimer’s Society that the lack of social contact is causing a deterioration in the health and wellbeing of their residents with dementia. This painful situation just isn’t good enough and could be addressed.
It’s imperative that the Government must give family and friend carers keyworker status, so they can access the PPE and testing to enter homes safely and provide essential care and support.
Covid has also deeply affected people with dementia who live in the community.
I have heard from constituents about the impact the lack of interaction is having on their loved ones’ dementia symptoms, and a recent survey from Alzheimer’s Society showed that the vast majority of respondents were experiencing a rapid acceleration of dementia symptoms during this time. This includes some of our most basic abilities, such as cooking, dressing or communicating with our loved ones.
It’s vital that people with dementia both in care settings and in the community are given the understanding, kindness and respect to live well, through coronavirus and beyond.
That’s why I am proud to have become the first MP to become an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends Champion back in 2014.
I’ve been so pleased to see more and more of my parliamentary colleagues join this initiative as we work towards the goal of a Dementia Friendly Parliament.
Embedding dementia-friendliness into communities like mine in Oldham is vital for wellbeing, and I am delighted that I have been able to work with Oldham Dementia Action Alliance for a number of years, and with companies from solicitors through to chippys, to embed dementia-friendly behaviour and values in our area.
I now hope to see people affected by dementia supported by rapid government action to improve their quality of life and safety as we move through the pandemic and beyond.
So this World Alzheimers Day, I’m calling on the Government to stand by their manifesto pledge on dementia research not just on research to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure all forms of dementia, but to ensure high quality care for people with these different brain diseases.
They must recognise that with Covid and the difficulties charities have faced in fund raising how important it is that they deliver on their ‘Dementia Moonshot’ promise.
If you need support for yourself or a loved one, please contact Alzheimer’s Society on 0333 150 3456., or their online portal Talking Point.