We have joined forces with the leading dementia organisations to form ‘One Dementia Voice’ and write to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to demand that people with dementia in care homes be allowed visitors.
It is people with dementia who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those living at home have been isolated not only from friends and family, but from the support centres and care networks that enable them to live independently. Those in care homes have been disproportionately at risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. But there has been a 52% increase in deaths amongst people with dementia during lockdown outside of the coronavirus figures – showing starkly that the restrictions put in place have taken a grave toll, alongside that of the virus.
Dementia UK, John’s Campaign, Innovations in Dementia, TIDE (Together in Dementia Everyday), YoungDementia UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, have come together to speak on behalf of the millions adversely affected, calling on the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to grant designated family carer access to care homes, in line with that afforded to ‘Key Workers’ – the care home staff.
Because very frequently, the role of family in looking after someone with dementia is key. They provide essential emotional support, during times the person might be distressed or disorientated. They speak on their behalf, if the person struggles to articulate their own needs. They are best placed to know what might help the person, whether that be their favourite music, or sharing stories or photographs from their past.
The dementia specialist Admiral Nurses on our Helpline have been talking calls throughout lockdown from desperate relatives, unable to visit the person they love. Many have been unable to see or speak to their relative at all – not even by video call or through a window. This can be catastrophic for a person with dementia, for whom familiarity and routine are very important.
We understand the tremendous pressure put on care homes to look after their staff and residents during the pandemic. The spread of coronavirus in care homes and the huge difficulty in procuring PPE to slow the disease has been nothing short of tragic. It is imperative that the Government does all it can to help the care home sector now. Extending key worker status to relatives can be a part of this – with a commitment to safe, regular and repeated testing of all staff, residents and visitors.
We welcome the statement from Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night, that visitors will be allowed into care homes “very soon” – but the devil is in the detail and it is imperative that the Government helps families and care homes by outlining how this can be done safely.
Now that lockdown is easing elsewhere, it is time to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society do not continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic.
You can read the full letter to the Secretary of State here.