Tens of thousands of terrified dementia patients risk being ‘abandoned to coronavirus’ due to the crisis in care homes.
The Alzheimer’s Society said at least half of care homes were reporting cases of the virus and dozens of residents had died since the outbreak began. But the Government has failed to roll out tests to homes, with elderly residents fearing they have been ‘forgotten’ and are being condemned to death.
More than 400,000 people in the UK live in care homes, two thirds of whom have dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society has written to the Government insisting that a dedicated national strategy to support care homes through the pandemic was ‘urgently needed’.
It said social care had ‘yet again fallen to the bottom of the pile’ and demanded immediate priority testing for care home staff and patients, in addition to NHS workers.
Tens of thousands of terrified dementia patients risk being ‘abandoned to coronavirus’ due to the crisis in care homes across the UK (stock image)
'I MAY NEVER SEE MY WIFE AGAIN'
Tony Claydon has been married to Pauline for 49 years, but fears he will never see her again and won’t be there to hold her hand when she dies.
Mrs Claydon, 71, was diagnosed with dementia ten years ago and is in a care home, unable to walk or talk.
She was placed on palliative care in November and Mr Claydon visited her every day, holding her hand and helping with activities such as feeding and drinking.
But a ban on visitors means the couple, from Enfield, north London, have not seen each other since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Mr Claydon, 75, said: ‘I seriously think there is a chance that the last time I saw Pauline, before the lockdown, could be the last time I ever see her.
‘I worry that she will feel alone. She won’t understand what is going on. I am not there to reassure her.
'I think the home is having real problems with staff being off sick or self-isolating. It is so upsetting.’
Mr Claydon said the Government must urgently roll out testing to care homes so relatives can be told if it is safe to visit.
Tony Claydon has been married to Pauline for 49 years, but fears he will never see her again
The charity said the failure to supply tests and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) was putting the lives of residents and carers at risk.
Meanwhile, a ban on visitors is causing the health of dementia patients to deteriorate, as they often rely on contact with friends and family to maintain basic cognition and communication skills.
The society raised fears that people living with dementia will be denied lifesaving hospital treatment if they get the virus and are pressured into signing Do Not Resuscitate orders.
The Daily Mail is campaigning for better dementia care and for an end to the crisis in social care. Care home managers say the situation is dire and the already overstretched system may collapse.
Mike Padgham, who runs Saint Cecilia’s Care Services in Yorkshire, said six patients had died of coronavirus and staff had been left in tears. He added: ‘We just lost two patients in very close succession, it makes you think everything is falling apart.
‘Social care was already in a mess before this came along, but coronavirus is the straw that broke the camel’s back. ‘Elderly people in care homes are being forgotten. It is disgraceful we are not getting any tests. We have had to source our own PPE. We feel invisible.’
Kathryn Smith, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Every day our Dementia Connect support line hears from people, friends and families terrified about the impact of coronavirus – people with dementia are being abandoned in care homes.
‘They’re being told they won’t be admitted to hospitals, they’re being asked to sign DNR orders and being discharged from hospitals to care homes without being tested.
'We can see the devastating impact of outbreaks in care homes... the deterioration of people with dementia separated from their families, care homes struggling to cope with a drastically reduced workforce. Yet again, social care and those who desperately need it have fallen to the bottom of the pile.’
In a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the Alzheimer’s Society said the Government should work with technology companies to help care homes put in place arrangements such as video calls to ensure continued contact between residents and their loved ones.
The society also said a system must be put in place to record and measure the impact of the virus in care homes, including death figures – which currently cover only NHS hospitals.
The charity has launched an emergency appeal for donations, and has seen a 600 per cent increase in the number of people using its support services