Report warns of potential increase in hospital admissions due to lack of dementia support'
Mental health of people living with dementia adversely affected by lockdown
Dementia support services should be restored to pre-Covid levels to prevent a possible rise in costly hospital admissions, a new study suggests.
The findings are published as part of a national survey looking at the impact of Covid on people living with dementia, including carers and former carers. The University of Bradford is a partner in the study, which is led by the University of Liverpool.
Dr Kathryn Lord, Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Health Studies at the University of Bradford, said: “We need to consider safe ways to try and bring back the support that has been closed. Given the negative impact of the closures, this means providing necessary PPE for staff and people living with dementia. We would like to ensure that there is support available for family carers who are often picking up a lot more caring responsibilities.”
Across the UK, over 850,000 people live with dementia. Support offered by family carers is estimated to save the healthcare services over £13 billion a year in the UK. The study notes that since the initial nationwide lockdown on March 23, dementia support services have been scaled back.
The report, based on feedback from 569 participants across the UK, says: “Variations in social support service... increased levels of anxiety in people with dementia and older adults, and lower levels of mental well-being in unpaid carers and older adults.”
It goes on: “Many people living with dementia living in the community have an unmet need for social company… There is evidence that social support reduces the risk of care home admissions and unplanned hospital admissions. Therefore, it is important to act now and enable pre-pandemic levels of social support, as otherwise health care and social care services will be overburdened with increased rates of cost-intensive care home admissions and healthcare visits.”
It highlights closures to vital support services, such as day care centres and support groups, which it says have taken a huge toll on the mental wellbeing of people with dementia and their carers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The study was funded by the University of Liverpool’s Covid-19 Strategic Research Fund and supported by the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (NIHR ARC NWC). The University of Bradford provided funding for a researcher to help conduct the survey.
Lead researcher Dr Clarissa Giebel, a Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool, said: “Our research highlights the significant negative impacts service closures are having on the lives of those affected by dementia. It is not viable to take away vital care any longer and policy guidance needs to address how activities and day care could be restarted based on individual circumstances in relation to Covid-19 risks and balancing them with the benefits of social support measures.
“Access to social support services, such as day centres, is crucial for the wellbeing of those who care for people with dementia. The coronavirus lockdown meant that these opportunities were suddenly taken away, leaving many carers providing 24/7 care and struggling to adapt.”
The Liverpool researchers worked with collaborators at UCLAN, Lancaster University, University of Bradford, and UCL to conduct the UK-wide survey.
A large number of NHS Trusts and front-line care support providers supported the project, including Mersey Care NHS Trust, North West Boroughs NHS Trust, Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Trust, Tide Carers, The Brain Charity, National Museums Liverpool, SURF Liverpool, Lewy Body Society, Liverpool and Wigan Dementia Action Alliance, Sefton Older People’s Forum, and Me2U Day Care Centre.