Family and friends have spent an extra 92 million hours on caring for their loved ones with dementia since the start of lockdown, according to a new report.
The investigation by Alzheimer’s Society found that informal carers are “completely burnt out” due to the double whammy of lockdown making dementia symptoms worse, and the “chronically underfunded” social care system leaving them “nowhere else to turn”.
In its new report ‘Worst hit: dementia during Coronavirus’ the charity shows the catastrophic impact coronavirus has had on the 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia – with nearly 14,000 dying from the virus between March and June.
Alzheimer’s Society warns the government of the lessons around testing, PPE, and infection control that must be learnt to protect people with dementia from coronavirus this winter, and prevent further tragedy.
Alzheimer’s Society chief executive, Kate Lee, said: “I’m so angry that families and friends out in the community have been left to fend for themselves as the people they love with dementia have declined in front of their eyes. They have been fighting against the odds to give decent care to their loved ones.
“Our staff on the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Connect support line speak to family carers every day who can’t get time to see the GP, are working all hours and barely sleeping – they’re completely burnt out.”
The report reveals the painful experiences of families with dementia out in the community over the last six months and urges the government to fix a broken social care system.
The study found that 95% of family carers the charity surveyed said extra caring hours had negatively impacted their physical or mental health, with 69% of over 1,000 people the charity spoke to reporting feeling constantly exhausted, 64% feeling anxious, 49% feeling depressed, and 50% developing problems sleeping.
Fourteen percent had no time to see a GP about a health problem, and more than one in ten (13%) said they’d had an injury from caring.
Since the pandemic, thousands of people with dementia have seen a deterioration in symptoms – due to lockdown causing social isolation, and health or social care service interruptions – reported by 83% of the family carers the charity spoke to.
The charity said this “perfect storm” has piled pressure on loved ones – 76% of family carers whose responsibilities had increased during lockdown said they were putting in more hours because of these worsening symptoms.
And even when putting in the extra hours, 45% of family carers felt the level of care their loved one with dementia needed was more than they could give.