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Supporting people with dementia during the COVID-19 pandemic

02 February 2021
Volume 32 · Issue 2


People with dementia have experienced great disruption to their lives due to the pandemic. Linda Nazarko highlights the way individuals have been affected and how the practice nurse can support them

People with dementia and their caregivers have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation, a reduction in formal and informal support, and disruption to routine have contributed to feelings of loneliness and anxiety in people with dementia and their caregivers. The pandemic has led to staff shortages in health and social care, changes of care workers and a reduction in the level of support provided. These changes have affected the physical and mental health of people with dementia and increased their reliance on primary care. Practice nurses have a key role to play in supporting affected individuals.

People with dementia have experienced a greater disruption to their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic than the general population because of their vulnerability, reliance on informal and formal support, and disruption of routines. COVID-19 has led to changes to the way we live our lives. It has led to new rules such as the mandatory wearing of facemasks in certain situations, and discontinuation of and reductions in services that older people with dementia may have relied on. These changes have affected the physical and mental health of people with dementia and increased their reliance on primary care. This article outlines how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people with dementia and how the practice nurse can communicate with and support individuals with dementia.

The World Health Organization's definition of dementia is as follows:

‘Dementia is a syndrome – usually of a chronic or progressive nature – in which there is deterioration in cognitive function (ie the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement. Consciousness is not affected. The impairment in cognitive function is commonly accompanied, and occasionally preceded, by deterioration in emotional control, social behaviour, or motivation.’

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