Isolated dementia sufferers are ‘falling off a cliff edge’

Coronavirus crisis also having a negative impact on carers and community workers

Most dementia sufferers need supports such as someone doing their shopping and emotional supports, like a regular telephone check-in. Photograph: Getty Images

Most dementia sufferers need supports such as someone doing their shopping and emotional supports, like a regular telephone check-in. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The coronavirus has brought about a rise in isolation, loneliness, boredom and fear for those experiencing dementia and family carers, research from the Alzheimer Society of Ireland has found.

The research, which included the views of 160 people with dementia, their carers and community workers, found that over 73 per cent of those with the disease feel they need some support at the moment.

Most require both practical supports, such as someone doing their shopping and emotional supports, like a regular telephone check-in.

Over 77 per cent of family carers reported needing supports and in particular they are worried about getting sick and not being able to care for their family member.

The charity’s dementia advisers have reported an increase in confusion, paranoia, delusions, agitation and other behavioural changes with one worker likening the deterioration of a person suffering from the condition to “falling off a cliff edge”.

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland said it is continuing to support people with dementia and their families through its home care, dementia advisers, national helpline and online family carer training.

The Alzheimer National Helpline is experiencing an increase in callers with 1,496 service users getting in touch between January to March. The helpline has seen a jump in enquires relating to responsive behaviours, support for carers and practical support for those living with dementia “lacking insight into the current situation”.

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland said Covid-19 has resulted in a “perfect storm” for the charity. It has had to postpone its Tea Day contributing to a severe drop in fundraising, 48 day centres are currently closed and social clubs, Alzheimer cafes and support groups are all postponed until further notice.

Pat McLoughlin, chief executive of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, said there was a crisis in dementia care before the coronavirus He said it is now “unthinkable” what people with dementia and their carers are going though to access vital supports and services.

“There is a real sense of fear, anxiety and isolation out there and people are crying out for support and this desperate time. Everyone’s lives have been turned upside down during this health crisis – but people with dementia are particularly vulnerable here,” he said.

“We have heard that people with dementia are being sent home from hospital without adequate home and community support in place; concerns raised about an increase in responsive behaviour due to social isolation and changes in routine; and immense pressure on family carers who are now housebound and can’t leave the house, even for a walk.”

Mr McLoughlin said there are about 30 people diagnosed with dementia every day.

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland has developed tip sheets to help support people with dementia and their families during the current health crisis which are available on its website www.alzheimer.ie.

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