There are an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, the majority of these are over the age of 65 and living with other health conditions. This can mean that they are more vulnerable to developing infections and experiencing severe symptoms. Here we provide some information about COVID-19 and dementia and some information about managing at this difficult time. We hope you find it useful.
UK Government restrictions have been lifted in England and the first vaccines for COVID-19 have been offered to all UK adults. Some more vulnerable people may still be “shielding”. This means not leaving the house unless for essential reasons such as a medical appointment. Living with dementia, and supporting loved ones with dementia, can be challenging. The recent changes to restrictions can be confusing and navigating day to day life during these times can be difficult for those living with dementia, and their families and carers.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory virus; common symptoms include a high temperature, dry cough, loss of smell or taste, fatigue, and it may cause shortness of breath. For someone with dementia, delirium can also be a common symptom.
Vulnerable people such as those living with dementia, respiratory disorders, high blood pressure or diabetes, and everyone over the age of 70 are at an increased risk of developing severe symptoms. The role out of the vaccine program has however reduced the risk of severe infection in those who have had two doses of vaccine.
If you, or someone you live with develops symptoms or is pinged by the NHS test and trace system you must self-isolate for 10 days. This is a vital measure that will help to contain the virus and not spread it to others.
COVID-19 and dementia
If you are the primary care giver for someone living with dementia that you don’t live with you are able to do this under current guidelines. Most restrictions on visiting care homes have been lifted too, however each devolved nation has different rules on number of visitors, and number of visit a week. Further to this each facility will have its own regulations on who can visit and when, and it’s likely you’ll be asked to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when you visit.
It can be difficult to explain self-isolation, social distancing and hand washing to someone with dementia, as they can struggle with complex information. Make sure any instructions are clear and repeated often so they do not get agitated and know how to keep themselves safe. Sometimes leaving notes for people in places around their homes can serve as a reminder.
People with dementia in their own homes may already feel isolated, and further self-isolation may make this worse. Make sure care plans are in place, and anyone providing care or support is doing so safely and within government guidelines. Stay connected by calling often or writing letters and try to encourage exercise and hobbies within the person’s home.
COVID-19 and vaccines
Thanks to the hard work of scientists and doctors across the globe, vaccines to protect us from COVID-19 have been developed at extraordinary pace. Despite the speed at which they were developed, these vaccines have been tested in hundreds of thousands of people and have gone through rigorous trials to ensure they are safe and effective.
There are 4 approved vaccines for COVID-19 in the UK. All have been found to be effective at preventing severe symptoms and that they offer a high level of protection for people at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. Results have also found that they work to reduce transmission of COVID-19 from one person to another, which can help to stop the spread of infection.
While encouraged for all adults over 18, vaccination is voluntary which means people can decide for themselves. Some people may not have the capacity to decide whether to get vaccinated, and in these cases their next of kin, doctor or carer will decide on their behalf. This is called a best interest decision. For information about the vaccines used in the UK their potential side effects see the NHS COVID-19 vaccination: guide for adults
COVID-19 and caring for someone with dementia
Looking after someone with dementia can be challenging, and for many this may have been made more difficult during the pandemic. If you are caring for someone with dementia and need some advice or support, Alzheimer’s Society have a support line on 0333 150 3456. For practical advice and medical support you can contact the Admiral Nurses helpline on 0800 888 6678.
Need further information?
You can find a list of organisations offering help, advice, information and support for people living with dementia and their carers here.
If you would like further information about dementia and Covid-19, including signposting to other useful organisations you can call our Dementia Infoline on 0300 111 5 111 Monday-Friday (9-5pm) or email email@example.com