Whilst everyone has been affected by lockdown, people affected by dementia have been amongst some of the hardest hit throughout the pandemic. Coronavirus has caused both people with dementia and their carers to be cut off from their usual sources of support which has led to increased social isolation and increasing risk of the detrimental affects of loneliness.
A recent survey by Alzheimer’s Society revealed that many people living with and caring for someone with dementia are experiencing crippling loneliness and struggling to cope in the coronavirus pandemic. 78% of people affected by dementia disclosed that the pandemic has made them feel more lonely or isolated than before, with half revealing they feel significantly lonelier and more isolated. Unsurprisingly, 46% of respondents say they are struggling to cope in the crisis and 14% admit they are finding it extremely hard to cope with daily life.
Thanks to a £500,000 grant from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, awarded at a time when our fundraising income has been significantly reduced due in part to cancellation of mass participation events such as the London Marathon and our Memory Walks, we have been able to continue providing vital support to people affected by dementia.
When the lockdown made face-to-face support impossible, we developed other ways to stay in touch with the people who need us. Using the funding available we provided 18,000 support sessions in July and August alone, which have included Companion Calls, Welfare Calls and virtual Singing for the Brain sessions. This has enabled us to check on people’s safety, and provide necessary advice, information and signposting in the absence of face-to-face services.
These services have helped to reduce loneliness, supporting people to stay connected to their local communities for example linking them up to local volunteering schemes arranging for shopping or medication deliveries, and providing regular contact from a friendly voice, whilst also keeping check on their mental and physical wellbeing.
Case Study: Companion Calls
These are strange days indeed…… I was training to become a Keep in Touch Call volunteer for Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Connect service when the lockdown started and so it seemed natural for me to volunteer for the new Companion Calls service, part of the charity’s response to the Coronavirus crisis.
Building rapport with someone you’ve never met, and someone you sometimes know little or nothing about, is challenging. I’m currently calling four people – two living with dementia and two carers with an age range of mid 70s to early 90s. The calls aren’t always easy…. [however] When I called one man for a second time, his wife and carer said he’d been asking every day when I was going to phone again and expressed the hope I might visit in person. He wants to send me a CD of him singing – I’m not sure what to make of that! Another told me that a weekly chat took her mind off things. And these aren’t one-way streets. The benefit is mutual.
As I said earlier, I have been lucky enough to go out to work from time to time during this crisis….. I have stayed in touch with friends and colleagues. For others, though, confined to home and deprived of the face-to-face services Alzheimer’s Society offers in more stable times, these are difficult days. Companion Calls can offer a glimpse of colour in an otherwise monochrome world.
And let’s face it, we all need a companion or two.
Companion Call Volunteer April 2020