While COVID-19 has meant that more and more of our social freedoms have been limited, the impact it has on those living with dementia in long-term care facilities has only shone a light on some of the failures of many care facilities.

What is the impact of COVID-19 on people living with dementia?

When one takes into account the average day in a care facility for someone living with dementia, it may be that not much has changed. Older people in care facilities do not live with the kinds of conveniences that we take for granted. They are often restricted to a small area with a small variety of activities to engage in week in and week out. In many ways, those who live with dementia have been experiencing a lockdown of a different kind for far longer than the rest of the world.

Still, somehow, this has come to be an accepted norm. But this is no way to live. What is worse is that the freedoms that were available previously are much more concerning in their absence. It is reported that many residents in care homes are experiencing acute loneliness due to protracted isolation from their loved ones. Moreover, those living with dementia often have to make sense of the increased lack of freedom on a day-to-day basis.

Now that some of us experience the same kinds of frustrations that many older people with dementia are subjected to every day during the COVID-19 health crisis, we too find ourselves at a loss for making sense of our world. Only through the lens of COVID-19 are the conditions of dementia becoming more relatable to those who live without it.

Many of the so-called “behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia” that many doctors would consider a clear sign of evidence are now becoming more commonplace even among the most sober-minded individuals of society. Is it not perhaps time that we change our perspectives on what good care practices in long-term care facilities should entail?

Being locked in, restrained, and bored – all things the COVID-19 lockdown has subjected us to – is not normal. And it shouldn’t be in long-term care facilities. Loss of agency and freedom is something that needs to be combatted, not assisted.

This time of lockdown should also alert us to the ways in which these restraints have only increased for many living with dementia. No longer allowed to see their friends and family, they are subjected to faces that they do not recognise with the added veil of a facemask every day. They are deprived of human contact and interaction by everyone who knows their story completely.

Surely there must be ways to change the trajectory for people living with dementia?

At GERATEC, we believe so. As we too have now experienced a loss of agency, it becomes all the more clear that dementia is not something to be treated and locked away. We believe that older people are people first and foremost, with agency and dignity to be protected at all times. We believe that non-pharmacological management strategies are pivotal to achieving this aim and upholding the human dignity and rights of those living with dementia.

GERATEC is paving the way forward for those serving older people. Our relationship-centred approach will help you to create an environment that provides safety for people living with dementia in a friendly environment that treats every individual with the unique respect and care they deserve. While lockdown has exacerbated the feelings of isolation and disconnect many older people face, it is within your hands to change their reality and give them the best care to mitigate the stresses that have been heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact GERATEC to discover how you can make this form of relationship-centred support a reality.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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