Measures introduced to protect older people from COVID-19 may be as detrimental as the virus itself, according to local charitable organisation Belong. The provider, which operates seven state-of-the-art care villages across the North West and Midlands, has this week released a guide to help families and friends of people with dementia recognise and overcome some of the barriers created by isolation, face coverings and social distancing.
According to the latest findings from the Alzheimer’s Society, lockdown isolation has caused major levels of decline for people living with dementia, with 82% of respondents reporting a deterioration in symptoms such as further memory loss, reduced concentration, and increasing difficulties with reading, writing and communication. More than a quarter of respondents now find everyday tasks, such as dressing and cooking, more challenging.
Belong’s Admiral Nurse, Caroline Clifton, commented: “As an organisation that specialises in dementia care, we were already very aware of the harmful effects of social isolation and loneliness on people with dementia. As such, we were able to quickly respond within Belong villages to the potential risks of people experiencing a rapid downturn in their physical and mental abilities, due to reduced opportunities for exercise and social interaction. Our focus has therefore been very much on finding ways to overcome these challenges and maintain the positive wellbeing of customers.”
To help others in the community, Belong has developed a COVID-19 guide, harnessing the expertise of its dementia specialist Admiral Nurse team to offers tips ranging from nutrition and activity ideas to ways of maintaining exercise and social interaction whilst restricted to the home. Crucially, it also offers strategies to communicate with people living with dementia when wearing a mask or face covering, as well as advice on how to explain COVID-19 restrictions.
Speaking of the guide, Caroline added: “The past six months have been a steep learning curve for everyone, and we were keen to produce something that could help support families in the wider community to recognise potential issues, especially for those who may not have formal assistance in place.
“The guide combines best practice in dementia care with innovative strategies we have found really useful throughout the pandemic, and we hope it enhances the lives of people affected by dementia during this difficult time.”
Belong was one of the first care operators to safely introduce garden visits at its villages earlier this year, amidst growing concerns over resident wellbeing when family visits were suspended. This has since been extended to socially-distanced indoor visits in some locations to accommodate for the colder weather, with safety measures such as deep cleaning of areas, the provision of PPE and a booking system in place. Other village facilities, such as the gym, hair salon and function room have also reopened to residents, with Covid-secure measures in place, to enable regular mental, physical and social activity to take place within household ‘bubbles’ as restrictions continue.
Belong’s guide to caring for people with dementia during Covid-19 is free to download here.