In the UK, people affected by dementia have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. From the high death rate in care homes, to the significant cognitive decline for people who live in the community, to the rising mental health challenges for unpaid carers, the pandemic has had a severe impact, while exposing our fragmented social care system for all to see.
Alzheimer’s Society is the UK’s leading dementia charity, and in this report they bring together evidence from a wide range of sources to shine a light on the impact of COVID-19 on people who have dementia and those who care for them.
- The NHS and local authorities must set out how they will involve social care providers and care homes in winter pressure planning to ensure that social care is placed on an equal footing with the NHS, and that their situation is understood, accounted for and supported. This must include the provision of regular and timely testing and PPE.
- National UK governments must guarantee that where care was stopped due to coronavirus precautions (particularly domiciliary care), it will be reinstated when deemed safe, without the need for unnecessary further formal assessment.
- The UK Government must ensure that the Infection Control Fund remains in place until at least April 2021 and care providers should be able to use that fund flexibly, including for infection control, technology and supporting visits.
- National UK governments should commit to ensuring that any communications to, or requirements of, people affected by dementia (both in the community and in care homes) are clear, consistent and straightforward to understand. Any guidelines should reflect the daily lived experience and particular needs of people affected by dementia.
- Recognising the key role that informal carers play in the lives of people living with dementia, national UK governments must take action to support people in this role by: a. Allowing for at least one informal carer per care home resident to be designated a key worker, with access to training, COVID-19 testing/ vaccinations and PPE. b. Ensuring the delivery of carers’ assessments and provision of short breaks for carers. c. Collecting local authority and health authority data on carer assessments and respite care.
- Where care homes are unable to facilitate visits from loved ones, they must be required to notify national care inspectorates (CQC/CSSIW/RQIA) and seek to put in place suitable alternative arrangements to maintain appropriate contact between loved ones and care home residents who have dementia.
- National UK governments needs to set out a clear strategy to enable people affected by dementia to recover from the effects of the pandemic, including rehabilitation to counteract effects on cognitive or physical functioning, support for mental and physical health, and speech and language therapy.
- National UK health and social care departments must develop and implement a clear recovery plan to ensure that all elements of memory assessment services can re-open and urgently catch up on waiting lists so the freefall in dementia diagnosis rates does not continue.