Care home visit restrictions must be lifted say dementia groups

A staggering 4,800 people with dementia are estimated to have died from coronavirus in London since the coronavirus pandemic hit Britain in full force last year.

They are among more than 34,000 with the condition to have died in England and Wales from covid-19, making people with dementia the worst hit by coronavirus.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that deaths of care home residents, where at least 70 per cent of people have dementia, are nearly one-third higher than previously thought. Since January 2021, there have been 11,624 deaths, including care home residents who have died in hospitals or elsewhere.

A coalition of dementia organisations including Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia UK, John’s Campaign and TIDE (together in dementia everyday), have come together to say never again will those affected face such hardship and loss.

In an Alzheimer’s Society’s survey of people who care for a family member, partner or someone close to them with dementia, 92 per cent said the pandemic had accelerated their loved one’s dementia symptoms.

Nearly one-third (32 per cent) of those who lost a loved one during the pandemic thought that isolation or lack of social contact was a significant factor in that loss. People with dementia in care homes have been cut off from their loved ones for almost a year, contributing to a massive deterioration in their health.

Only 13 percent of people surveyed have been able to go inside their loved one’s care home since the pandemic began, while 24 percent haven’t been able to see their loved one at all for over more than months.

Tanya Luckett believes her father’s death was hastened because she was unable to visit him

The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect support line has been flooded with calls from relatives revealing how quickly their loved ones are going downhill, losing their abilities to talk or feed themselves. The Alzheimer’s Society’s support services have been used more than 3.6 million times since the pandemic began.

The Alzheimer’s Society is calling for meaningful – close contact, indoor – visits to be the default position without delay from March 8.

There are an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, including more than 78,600 in London.

While the government has announced that indoor visits will restart for one family member from March 8, the coalition emphasises that this must be the default position and that blanket bans on visitors (where there is no coronavirus outbreak) are unacceptable.

Tanya Luckett lost her father last year. His health declined rapidly once covid-19 visiting restrictions were applied. “Two years ago, as dad’s dementia progressed, he moved into a care home. He was ticking along nicely with his routine where either my mum, me or our lovely friend Sharon would visit him every day and regularly take him out.

“It meant he was able to lead a reasonably happy life – until Covid-19 hit and the visiting restrictions were enforced. The blanket restrictions meant that we couldn’t visit Dad. His life turned upside down. He couldn’t understand why we weren’t visiting him and why he couldn’t go out. He was incredibly confused and anxious, and this made his dementia worse, which led to him escaping from the home several times,” Luckett said.

“I know that the stress of all this change, the lack of family contact, the reduction of input and stimulation from us caused his death. There must be a more compassionate way of coping with covid-19 in care homes, particularly for those with dementia. We must help to make changes for those who are struggling now because of this pandemic.”

  • The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect Support line – 0333 1503456 – is available seven days a week, providing information and practical support for people affected by dementia

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