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  1. Published on: 16/05/2020 06:59 AMReported by: rogerblaxall
    Local folk affected by dementia are experiencing crippling loneliness and are struggling to cope during lockdown, a survey by Alzheimer’s Society reveals.

    But the charity is helping to alleviate the anxiety many face by making thousands of ‘welfare calls’ to provide support and information.

    Locally, more than 1,200 calls have already been made by staff and volunteers determined to reach out to those in need.

    Alzheimer’s Society’s funds have been badly hit by the pandemic, meaning it now faces a potential drop of £45 million in income - at a time when demand for its services has skyrocketed, leading it to launch an Emergency Appeal to raise vital funds.

    For its latest survey, the charity questioned 880 people either living with dementia or caring for someone with the condition.

    More than three quarters (78%) * said the coronavirus pandemic has made them feel more lonely or isolated than before, with around half (37%) revealing they feel significantly lonelier and more isolated.

    Michelle Nelson-Greensmith, (pictured) of St Helens, who has early-onset dementia at just 57, said: “Covid -19 is just massive for me. I can't see my daughters or my grandchildren.

    “I live with my husband and my mum. I am worried about paying bills. I am worried about getting shopping. You cannot get shopping delivery slots for love nor money.

    “The list of vulnerable people doesn't include people with dementia. It just doesn't seem like it has been thought through for people with dementia. Isolation is not for me. I can feel I am beginning to get depressed. I am confused as to what is happening. My husband has to keep explaining why I have to stay in. I think Alzheimer's Society have been brilliant during this though.”

    There are an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, including more than 18,000 locally. However, the condition, already the UK’s biggest killer, has been even more deadly during the current pandemic – claiming more lives and leaving many feeling fearful and vulnerable.

    Hazel Bayley, Head of Region for Alzheimer’s Society in the North West, said:“Coronavirus has turned life upside down for the thousands of people affected by dementia; many are scared, lonely and struggling to get the help they desperately need.

    “During the pandemic, our frontline team has been raising safety alerts, delivering regular welfare calls, and supporting those who have nobody else to turn to through our Dementia Connect support line.

    “They have dealt with matters of life and death. But thousands more need help and with Alzheimer’s Society facing a drop of £45 million this financial year due to the pandemic, this lifeline is at risk, which is why we are asking people to donate to our Emergency Appeal.”

    The charity’s recent survey follows research it funded at the University of Exeter, known as the Improving the Experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life (IDEAL) programme.

    The large-scale study is one of the first to look at loneliness in family carers and people living with dementia. Nearly two thirds of family carers (62%) and around a third (30%) of people with dementia reported loneliness before lockdown measures were put in place.

    An estimated 95% of people with dementia are over 65 and many live with other underlying health conditions, making them more vulnerable to the virus.Emerging data from one large study also says that risk of death is 39% higher among people with dementia.

    The neglect of the care sector during coronavirus also significantly impacts people with dementia who are the main recipients of social care, with 70% in care homes and, 60% relying on homecare having dementia.

    Unsurprisingly, around half of survey respondents (46%) say they are struggling to cope in the current crisis and one in seven (14%) admit they are finding it extremely hard to cope with daily life.

    Around a third (34%) say they are most worried about not seeing family and friends, while over a quarter (26%) are most concerned about dementia symptoms worsening and one in eight (13%) say their biggest source of anxiety is around what the future holds. Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect support line has seen over 7,000 calls in the last two months.Meanwhile, between 23 March and 1 April, when lockdown measures were put in place, the charity’s online support community Talking Point saw a 550% increase in people joining; last month saw more than double the number of registrations (1113) compared to March 2019 (526). The charity’s Emergency Appeal has been backed by celebrity supporters, including Jonathan Pryce CBE, Lesley Manville and Fiona Phillips. The Society is also calling for people to sign up and become a Dementia Friend.

    Its free online Information session explains more about how dementia affects a person and armed with that understanding, how folk can help those living with the condition during the pandemic, like having a chat by video call with a family member or delivering shopping for a neighbour.

    Donations to Alzheimer’s Society’s Emergency Appeal can be made at
    alzheimers.org.uk/coronavirus-appeal

    Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Advisers provide emotional support and practical information on how to stay safe, active and social during this difficult time - its support line (0333 150 3456) is open seven days a week.
     

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