Carer stress during COVID-19
The Alzheimer’s Society helpline has had a 600% increase in calls since the beginning of the lockdown. Most people with a dementia will be at risk from corona virus, so will be shielding. People who are shielding are now locked away from their friends, family and community. They are at risk of loneliness, which is a killer in itself.
The Harvard Study on Adult Development has followed their original study participants throughout their adult life and into old age. The study started in 1938 and shows that the most important factor in living a long, happy and well life was social connections. Having a close family, someone that you can implicitly rely on and then having a wide circle of friends, family and community beyond that close immediate family. This network of connections can delay physical and mental deterioration and increase longevity.
Then lockdown takes this away.
It has been assessed that loneliness is the health equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
People with dementia often don’t understand easily that the reason they are shielded is for their own protection and that it is temporary, even though it might go on for months. They just feel abandoned, which is what is being widely reported by them.
No wonder there is a huge increase to the carers helpline. The carers are still doing their caring role, but now under far more difficult circumstances. And even simple things like getting pads delivered has become more challenging, let alone the basic task that we all have to go to of queuing to go to the pharmacist or supermarket.
Carer stress and carer burnout have always been big issues, but this is amplified and is going to be an ongoing bigger issue until all the restrictions of lockdown are able to be eased and the person with dementia no longer needs the protection from shielding. This could be many months away.
Sadly for some, this will mean an increase in elder abuse, in line with the increase in domestic abuse that has happened with lockdown. And without being able to call for help, because of the dementia, this could be a silent epidemic of abuse that goes unseen and seemingly unnoticed.
My experience when older people get ill, is that there is a sense of them coming into their twilight years and the end of their life, so no heroic efforts are made for them. There is a risk that deaths of an abused elderly person will just be seen as natural causes due to old age. Lets hope not.
If you know a carer, be kind to them. If you are a carer be kind to yourself and know that you in doing the best you can, you are doing a great job.