The ongoing challenges for people with dementia during coronavirus

August 20, 2020

The threat of coronavirus remains real and it seems unlikely that life will fully return to normal any time soon. Carers and people with dementia may still be feeling anxious and frightened, particularly if they have been shielding due to pre-existing health conditions alongside dementia. 

Families may also be in a position where a lot has changed; their relative may have deteriorated after long periods of isolation and carers could be worried about when face-to-face services and other sources of support will resume, storing up a huge amount of emotional distress for them.   

We have put together these suggestions to help you cope with these uncertain times. 

Follow government guidance on lockdown restrictions

It is important to continue to follow government advice on helping to avoid the spread of coronavirus. Find a credible source of information such as GOV.UK, or the NHS website, so that you can keep up to date with information about restrictions in your area.

There is guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. To find out more, please visit the relevant government websites as the information and guidance changes regularly:

For Scotland, visit https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

For Wales, visit https://gov.wales/coronavirus

For Northern Ireland, visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19

For England, visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Supporting from a distance

If you are supporting someone with dementia who lives on their own, they may have difficulty understanding what has changed in terms of lockdown restrictions. It is important to keep in touch, take time to explain changes and make information available to them in a simple and accessible way. You can repeat this as appropriate. People with dementia may also lack awareness of, and be less able to, report coronavirus symptoms because of communication difficulties – you should be alert to any signs of symptoms of the virus in the person you are supporting. 

Routine

There are still restrictions in place throughout the UK, but people are still allowed to do more than they were at the start of the pandemic. Gradually re-introducing parts of your old routine to your lockdown routine and keeping active can provide some comfort, stability and improved mental health and wellbeing. Although your choices may be limited, try to focus on the things you enjoy. Remember that you are best placed to know what is comfortable and manageable for you and the person with dementia 

Keep in touch

Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks. Keep in touch with facetoface services you were accessing prior to the pandemic to find out when they are going to resume services or alternatives to respite support. If your loved one is in a care home, keep in touch with the home to find out if and how they are easing restrictions to allow relatives or close friends to visit. 

You can connect with other people affected by dementia through the online community, Talking Point. Carers can also contact other carers through Carers UK Forum.  

Post shielding support

If you have been using services set up specifically for shielding or self-isolating individuals, you should keep in touch with your local authority about what services will remain in place and what you need to take responsibility for. Some forms of support – such as priority supermarket delivery slots and some local volunteer schemes – will continue. The Government will continue to maintain the Shielded Patients List, monitor the virus continuously and if it spreads too much, people on the list may be advised to shield again.  

And please remember…

Please remember that advice to stay two metres (three steps) social distance from others still remains.

If you are going outside, particularly if going somewhere that two metres social distancing might be difficult, it is advisable to wear a face covering. In all parts of the UK, it is now a requirement to wear one by customers in shops, supermarkets, and shopping centres and when travelling by public transport.

It is advisable to book in for a flu jab to protect you and your family members. In England, anyone who needs to shield and/or is over 50 is eligible for a free flu jab. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also running their own flu campaigns. People who are not eligible for a free flu jab can pay for one at pharmacies and supermarkets.

If you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms, the advice given by the government is to stay at home and self-isolate to prevent the spread to others. We advise everyone to read the NHS guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection, which includes specific information for those living with a vulnerable person, how long periods of self-isolation should last as well as the symptoms to look out for.

Get help and support 

While it is important to be aware of coronavirus, it is also important not to forget about other health conditions you might have. If you or the person you care for have not been able to access medical services due to the closure of NHS clinics, it may be time to contact the NHS for an appointment.

If you are struggling with your mental health or have experienced grief or bereavement due to the coronavirus pandemic, allow yourself space to grieve and seek support from your GP if required. 

You can also speak to an Admiral Nurse on Dementia UK’s Helpline by contacting 0800 888 6687 or helpline@dementiauk.org. 

Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline

Call our Dementia Helpline for free on 0800 888 6678 or send an email to helpline@dementiauk.org

Find out more

Coronavirus information and advice

Head to this page to read up on the things you can do to look after yourself, and the person with dementia, during this time.

Find out more