The last 14 months have been a testing time for us all, but imagine if you suffer from dementia.
For those who suffer with dementia, social connections and stimulation are vital. However, during lockdown, those have been in very scarce supply for most. This has led to an increase in people feeling lonely, depressed and isolated. A survey of 128 care homes led by Alzheimer's Society revealed nearly 80% had seen a deterioration in the health of their residents with dementia due to lack of social contact.
It has been a challenge for me to visit and check on my vulnerable clients during lockdown. Care homes were understandably reluctant to let any visitors attend in person during the pandemic. While Zoom or MS Teams calls may work for some, they present their own problems for those suffering with dementia. For example, being able to focus on a screen for long periods of time, being able to talk freely and making themselves understood may be much more challenging via virtual media. A video call doesn't replace a face-to-face meeting over a cup of tea, where you can pick up on small behaviour changes in your clients and they feel more at ease.
During the pandemic it was also difficult to see clients who lived at home. Many would not understand why I wouldn't come into their homes and spend more time with them, which sometimes led to frustration. Thankfully, I have managed to see clients in their garden, on their drive and spoken through an open window to check they are coping but also to keep them safe.
As more people are vaccinated there is renewed hope that life will get better. The pandemic has posed a very unique problem for those caring for vulnerable people, especially those with mental illness; how can we stay socially close while being socially distanced? Yes, this is a difficult riddle to solve, but at the end of the day it is worth all the trouble in the world. It makes us happier, healthier and much better equipped to tackle all the other challenges the pandemic may throw at us.