People with dementia and the international coronavirus crisis

This has been a week dominated by Covid-19. There will be many more.

We have heard the numbers and the stories from China, Italy, Iran and elsewhere, but now the reality is being lived within the UK – Daily presentations by the Prime Ministry, flanked by grim-faced experts remind us of the daily evening communications during the Falklands war. The metaphor of war is being used liberally.

In the face of any infectious epidemic people with weakened immunity will be more at risk of contracting the disease and more at risk

of experiencing the most adverse effects – so it is that world-wide most deaths are concentrated amongst older people with multiple morbidities. Amongst these, dementia is a standout vulnerability factor. People known to have dementia living in the community, living in care homes, or having been admitted to a general hospital bed, are at greatest risk.

The situation has brought an urgency to the realisation that general hospital beds are a precious resource for people of all ages who have acute need for medical care. Beds occupied because an individual could not be helped to cope at home, or has not been discharged for want of community care or a suitable care home – represent obvious inefficiency within a system even more severely stressed because of this virus epidemic.

Money is now to be found to fix this: ‘£2.9bn to free up hospital beds, but “suitable support” is needed’ https://www.homecare.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1623053/Coronavirus-and-social-care-gets-almost-3-billion-to-free-up-15000-hospital-beds

Printing money may be possible. Mobilising competent and appropriate support to a timescale likely to be relevant to the epidemic is a greater challenge – It may prove to be impossible – But perhaps a revision of the balance of resourcing will be useful in the longer term.

There is experience of the diseases and its impact on the community of people with dementia from the countries first hit. Alzheimer’s disease international has produced a lecture/statement from Professor Huali Wang of China www.youtube.com/watch?v=zM6cd1QSSFo

This is an impressive and sober communications. It is short on stories from individuals, but perhaps that is as well – The overall message is horrific enough. What we hear is the sober and systematic application of well-informed good practice, immediately identifiable as what we will do here.

Within the scramble to be kind and caring to the vulnerable, prejudices and stigma reveal themselves – Not over 70s are alike – some are vulnerable – usually because of coexisting pathology – including dementia. Others are fit, able and have been and will continue to be carers of others and activists for good. The Centre of Ageing Better has recently released a report which addresses such matters “Doddery but dear? – Examining age-related stereotypes”, go to www.ageing-better.org.uk/publications/doddery-dear-examining-age-related-stereotypes

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