The impact of COVID-19 on people with dementia Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia

The Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia (CESRD) at NUI Galway is engaged in several different research reviews to examine the impact of COVID-19 on those living in long-term care, and on people with dementia and their family carers.

There are currently an estimated 55,266 people with dementia in Ireland; 34,818 of whom are estimated to be living at home in the community. The numbers of family carers in the community looking after someone with dementia in Ireland are thought to number about 60,000.

Read below about some of the research being undertaken by the CESRD at this time.

Giving voice to those directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – the experience and reflections of a person with dementia.

Dr Helen Rochford-Brennan (pictured) worked with Dr Fiona Keogh to write about her experience of living with dementia during the COVID-19 pandemic. They discuss the additional difficulties faced by people with dementia including the effects of social isolation, increased anxiety and stress. They talk about how some people with dementia may have difficulty accessing services and supports, which is not helped by the invisibility of people with dementia in society as a whole. Read full article.

Remembering people with dementia during the COVID-19 crisis.

Professor Eamon O’Shea wrote an open letter to HRB-Open Research on the need to remember people with dementia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing rules, wearing masks and cocooning for people aged 70 years may present particular difficulties for people with cognitive impairment. This letter argues that we need, more than ever, to assert the personhood of people with dementia at this difficult time.

Government, the Department of Health, the HSE and the voluntary sector have risen to the challenge of COVID-19 in all sectors of society. So too have ordinary citizens. Now we need to unite even more to create an unyielding commitment and adherence to the principles of decency, justice and equity in the allocation of scarce health and social care resources. By doing this, we will demonstrate our caring potential and capacity in a way that reflects our shared humanity, not only in the current crisis, but into the future." Professor O'Shea

One idea put forward in the letter is to create innovative new educational programmes for older people.

It would be wonderful to see public broadcasting initiatives providing information and advice on physical exercise in the home, sensory stimulation activities, reminiscence-based ideas, brain health challenges, music therapies and creative opportunities for people with dementia". Professor O'Shea.

Read the full letter here.

Ireland’s long-term care policy response to COVID-19

Dr Fiona Keogh and Professor Eamon O'Shea collaborated with Dr Maria Pierce to review the impact of COVID-19 on people who use and provide long-term care in Ireland. They found that several factors impacted on nursing home providers ability to manage the pandemic including ensuring they have enough staff, the need for more integrated care between private and voluntary nursing homes and the HSE, and the need to examine more thoroughly the balance between home care and residential care in Ireland. They also refer to the potential impact of a reduction of home care provision on family carers. Read the full article here.

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on people living with dementia in Ireland

Dr Niamh Hennelly and Professor Suzanne Cahill examined the impact of COVID-19 on people with dementia in Ireland. Key findings include:

  • Public health guidelines will be difficult for many people living with dementia to adhere to and follow due to cognitive impairment.
  • Cocooning for people living with dementia will be particularly difficult and people are at significant risk of social isolation, increased anxiety, stress and loneliness.
  • The temporary cessation of usual services such as support groups, Alzheimer cafés, day care services and cognitive stimulation therapy will impact significantly on people living with dementia.
  • In Ireland, residential care settings have been adversely impacted by COVID-19, where up to 72% of residents are people living with dementia.
  • People living with dementia have not featured very much in public policy discussions on the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Public policy has not focused on supporting family caregivers who may be under increased pressure due to the cessation of usual services and supports in addition to the anxiety and stress of living through a global pandemic.

Read the full article here.

Purpose: The CESRD develops and facilitates new thinking on dementia in Ireland that focuses on personhood within dementia and a resource allocation process that maximises the capabilities and well-being of people with dementia and their family carers in an efficient and effective way.

People: Researchers at the Centre offer support in terms of social audit, economic evaluation and both quantitative and qualitative analysis of dementia care in Ireland. The Centre works directly with those living with dementia and with family carers.

Place: Based at NUI Galway and supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Health Research Board. The CESRD will help ensure that the development and implementation of dementia policy in Ireland is hardwired to progressive and person-centred economic and social research. We want Ireland to be recognised internationally as a leader in social research on dementia, particularly in relation to the exploration of economic and social aspects of person-centered care and personhood.

For more information visit: https://cesrd.ie/ or follow on Twitter @CESRD_NUIG