I have worked in the care sector since 1997. I was initially attracted because I wanted to make a difference and I saw that older people, including people living with dementia often don’t get the quality of care they deserve after a life of contribution. 23 years later, dementia care has vastly improved but there is still lots of work to be done, so I was delighted when the Alzheimer’s Society approached me and my wife Anita to become Ambassadors for the charity.
Our first priority as Ambassadors, is to look at how we can support Alzheimer’s Society’s Emergency Appeal. This aims to raise funds to help keep the Dementia Connect support line going and extend telephone and virtual support. Our appointment comes at a time where people with dementia, 95% of whom are over 65 are mainly reliant on social care, are at significant risk and cut off from the outside world because of the current Coronavirus crisis.
The social care system, already at breaking point due to half of care homes reporting the Coronavirus, has been further impacted by a reduction in care workers, as well as care homes having to regulate numbers of visitors. As a result of this, the need for Alzheimer’s Society’s services has never been more urgent. Around 80% of calls to Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect support line are about Coronavirus issues and in March alone, nearly 3,300 calls were made. There’s also been an increase of 550% in people joining the charity’s online community Talking Point in late March. One of the main reasons for this increase is that people with dementia are being told they won’t be admitted to hospitals, they are being asked to sign DNR orders and those being discharged from hospitals to care homes weren’t being tested. There are also obstacles because people are having to cope with a temporary closure of face-to-face services and self-isolation. Also, 70% of residents living in care homes have dementia so care providers have had to adapt their support during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is because of challenges around how you can protect the residents from infection, support individual routines, maintain connections and relationships, alleviate boredom and allow freedom of movement.
Within Hallmark, our Head of Relationship Centred Care has issued advice to our teams on how to support residents living with dementia as a continuation of our Together Dementia Strategy, launched in 2017. This advice includes guidance on providing clear reminders to residents to wash their hands, creative and comfortable ways to support physical and social distancing, providing individual and meaningful 1-2-1 activities, using video call services to connect residents with loved ones, and supporting individual routines, especially around mealtimes.
To address some of the wider challenges the Alzheimer’s Society has joined forces with Care England and other leading charities to demand a comprehensive care package from the Government. This includes asking for more testing for care home team and residents, more PPE, to support family visits at end of life care and daily updates on Coronavirus deaths in the care system. The Alzheimer’s Society also has plenty of helpful tips and advice to support people living with dementia during this unsettling time. The charity’s Dementia Connect support line is open to anyone seeking help on 0333 150 3456 and if you would like to donate to its Emergency Appeal please visit their website for more details. Only by working together, can we secure a future for the sector which considers the needs of each resident above all else.