In the current lockdown situation, people with dementia may be particularly affected by social distancing rules, which can leave them more vulnerable to negative effects such as feelings of isolation and stress.
Therefore, it's important these individuals and their carers are well supported in order to ensure they are coping as well as possible.
That's why partners including the University of Manchester, Alzheimer’s Society, Bradford University and Brunel University London have teamed up to issue new guidance for those who are facing isolation and reduced services as the lockdown drags on.
Alistair Burns, professor of old age psychiatry at the University of Manchester, explained people with dementia may become confused, as well as being more likely to have physical illnesses that can make them more vulnerable.
While those with more advanced forms of the disease may have difficulty understanding the need for physical distancing or other steps such as regular hand washing, those with milder forms of the condition may also have a range of concerns that can affect their mental wellbeing.
The group noted that common worries expressed by people affected by dementia include the challenges of maintaining supplies of food and medication, anxiety about hospital admission, lack of confidence, feelings of loss and grief, agitation, and rapid decline in cognitive and functional ability.
Professor Linda Clare of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the project, said: "Our research tells us that many people living with dementia and carers felt isolated and lonely before COVID-19, and now these feelings will be amplified.
"They can feel overwhelmed by the volume of generic advice and guidance available, and may be unsure how to select information that is relevant to them and their families and what information to trust."
The guidance will seek to address this in the form of a new leaflet that contains five simple tips, which have been developed using the latest research and with the input of people affected by dementia. It is set to be distributed across Greater Manchester via the Adult Social Care team and Dementia United, as well as being available online.
It offers practical self-help tips, as well as sources of support, on five key points. These are:
- Staying safe and well
- Staying connected
- Keeping a sense of purpose
- Staying active
- Staying positive
Friends and relatives of those affected are being urged to print the leaflet and give a physical copy to those who do not have access to the internet.
The guidance also seeks to offer advice to the carers of dementia patients, who may also be particularly worried during the lockdown period. Many find it difficult to explain the current restrictions to a person with dementia and worry about their safety and wellbeing, the researchers noted.
Prof Burns said: "During this crisis, the carers of people with dementia can feel particularly isolated and so support for them and their families is also essential."