A survey done of 19 dementia services across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire has revealed the difficulties they have faced between May – July 2020.
Issues around patient and carer safety were a key challenge for many care homes and community services. Personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies were either limited or unavailable to those working in these settings, and that resulted carers feeling significant levels of stress and exhaustion. The lack of support for carers of people living with dementia during lockdown meant that they felt the burden when other support services stopped or reduced. Some services were able to offer support in the form of follow-up phone calls and virtual meetings but the survey shows that more carer support is required if another wave of COVID infections occurs.
The survey also found that there were increased feelings of fear and anxiety in services users and staff from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds as it has been shown in recent reports that there is an increased COVID risk in BAME communities.
As many services moved online during the start of the pandemic, the survey showed that some older people found it hard to use online communication tools and they were at risk of ‘digital exclusion’. There was also the major issue of isolation and loneliness as many services moved online or stopped entirely. Some services were able to adapt and offer alternative support over the phone which proved to be more effective and accessible to people.
Dr Julie Clayton, Coordinator of the Dementia Health Integration Team said: "It is clear from the survey that many dementia support services have been working within very challenging circumstances where the usual methods of providing support are not available.
"There is also the increased fear and anxiety around COVID itself that makes delivering and accessing these crucial services even more difficult. It's encouraging to see that some services are adapting quickly to meet the needs of people living with dementia and their carers but more needs to be done to ensure the needs of all patients, carers and staff are not being overlooked."