Campaign launches to stop people with dementia 'dying from loneliness' in Norfolk care homes
Norfolk residents are being urged to support a new campaign from the Alzheimer's Society to stop people with dementia "dying from loneliness" in care homes.
The new campaign, Wait until May? No Way! is calling for to government to set out a clear timetable for the reintroduction of meaningful visits from loved ones following an unexplained rise in dementia deaths at the height of last year's lockdown.
Debbie Foster, Alzheimer’s Society’s Area Manager for Norfolk, said: “Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that Covid-19 death rates are now at their highest levels in care homes, and many residents have not seen their loved ones for almost a year. When visits have happened, they all too often fail to meet the needs of people with dementia.
“While progress on vaccinating care home residents is welcome, we are concerned that low vaccination rates for care home staff will further delay the re-introduction of meaningful visits for residents and their loved ones."
The charity surveyed almost 2,000 people affected by dementia, revealing that more than four in five have reported a deterioration their symptoms since being forced to stay isolated, with a third saying they felt like "giving up".
Debbie added: “This lack of contact from their loved ones means people with dementia are deteriorating at a much faster rate than they would otherwise. They are not just dying due to Covid-19. They are also dying from loneliness.
“We need the public to sign our online letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, so care home residents can be reunited with their loved ones at the earliest possible opportunity.”
There are more than 16,500 people living with dementia in Norfolk, including at least 70 per cent of care home residents.
Now unable to have meaningful visits with family members due to lockdown restrictions, sufferers quickly lose their basic cognitive functions such as the ability to recognise family members, as well as communication skills such as remembering words or forming sentences.
The charity is urging the government to take urgent action to prioritise care home visits as part of the plans to ease lockdown.
Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “The risk of spreading the virus must be balanced with the crucial need for social contact.
“Window visits simply don’t work for people with dementia, who are declining rapidly, losing their abilities to speak and be independent, and ultimately dying prematurely.
“Action must be swift to avoid further tragedy. All staff must swiftly be vaccinated, and testing, PPE and infection control measures used to enable safe visits – with a clear timeline for family carer vaccinations, what more is needed?”
You can sign the letter via the charity’s website alzheimers.org.uk/coronavirus-campaigns