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Dementia services, COVID and moving forward

Several local and national lockdowns have meant that many dementia support services have had to close or adapt during the pandemic.  This has affected people in many ways.

Memory services closed meaning that a dementia diagnosis was delayed for many people.

Many carers had to take on extra caring duties as services were closed or people were shielding.

Many people with dementia were asked to shield (because of dementia or other health conditions).

Other people such as neighbours, family and friends who would often step in and provide support when services were not available could also no longer help.  This meant many people living with dementia and their carers were isolated, lonely and worried.  The knock-on effect of a lack of services, support and social life meant people struggled, and symptoms of dementia often got worse.

However, research, technology and medicine has led to amazing ways to cope with the pandemic and allow us to return to some sort of normal life.  

Many dementia care services were quick to respond.  They came up with new and innovative ideas for staying in touch and supporting people with dementia and carers throughout the pandemic in any way they could.  Here are some of the ways services kept in touch with people and provided vital support:

  • Singing for the Brain via Zoom
  • Regular phone calls to check in on people’s welfare
  • Wearing full personal protective equipment 
  • Visiting people in their gardens socially distanced
  • Dropping off activity packs to keep people busy

Whilst these new ways of offering support were temporary fixes, staff and people receiving these services realised the benefits of finding new ways of supporting people in their own homes.

Not everyone has a computer or smartphone.  Not everyone could manage or liked Zoom, and often there is no substitute for seeing people in person.  However, using telephone or video calls had some advantages.  Busy carers or carers who live far away from the person they support could now get more involved and attend appointments with the person. Groups could be run more often.  Support calls could be made at more convenient times.  People did not need to worry about getting transport to groups or appointments – worries about finding services, parking and the cost of taxis or buses.  People from rural communities can access more groups. Some people feel more comfortable in their own home. Dark nights, rain, wind and snow won’t stop a Zoom support group.

Many services are keen to adopt a ‘blended approach’ to providing dementia support services as we move forward. This means a combination of seeing people in person and offering online support.

We share some advice for engaging with services online:

  • If you find technology difficult to use, ask someone from the service, or a family member or friend to help you get set up.  They may be able to share their tablet or download the app you need.  They might sit with you during the call to lend a hand.
  • If you feel overwhelmed or disorientated by seeing yourself on the screen or lots of other people, you can change the view in Zoom so that you can just focus on the person who is speaking.  You can also turn off your camera if you don’t want to be seen.
  • If you feel left out of telephone calls and feel you can’t make yourself heard, use the speaker function if you have it, so more than one person can take part in the conversation.
  • If group calls are difficult, ask the service for a one to one video call using Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype or other platforms.

To find out more about other people’s experiences of using Zoom – read this article at by the Alzheimer’s Society https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-professionals/dementia-experience-toolkit/real-life-examples/supporting-inclusion/using-video-technology-connect-people-dementia 

The Zoomettes at DEEP (Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project) have also made a youtube video for accessing Zoom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilK0WAS3Kt4

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