Dr Sarah Russell, Suzanne Wightman, Professional and Practice Development Team, Dementia UK and family carers with lived experience.
The outbreak of coronavirus has been a challenging time for everyone, but especially for people living in care homes, their families and care home staff. This is because people living in care homes are likely to be older, living with dementia, frail or have other underlying health conditions; all of these factors place them at increased risk of coronavirus.
Social distancing and visiting restrictions have deprived residents of vital stimulation and support from family visits, which can lead to a marked deterioration in their wellbeing. This has put significant emotional strain on family carers as they grapple with questions about when they will be able to visit and how their relative will be in when this is allowed.
Dementia UK provides specialist dementia support for families through our Admiral Nurse service. When things get challenging or difficult for families, Admiral Nurses work with them, understanding their unique situation and providing strategies to help them cope, giving the compassionate one-to-one support, expert guidance and practical solutions that can be hard to find elsewhere.
The focus on our questions and answers was drawn from the number and types of calls that our national Dementia UK telephone helpline was receiving, conversations with our Lived Experience Advisory Panel, as well as what Admiral Nurses across the UK were telling us. We were mindful of the constant challenge of care home visiting restrictions and the commitment to the care and protection of residents by the care homes themselves; especially important as when “there are no visiting relatives to provide companionship, reassurance, or help to relieve the strain. Residents deprived of usual interaction with family and friends can become bewildered and depressed” (Oliver 2020) .
Indeed, Dementia UK is part of One Dementia Voice (a group of leading dementia charities) 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’ such as care home staff.
To find out more about Dementia UK , including the helpline visit www.dementiauk.org