Thank you for contacting me about dementia and coronavirus. This is a particularly challenging time for families caring for loved ones. The Government is working with stakeholders, Local Authorities and the care sector to identify what additional actions may be required to ensure safety and access to care and support.
Research has been commissioned through the National Institute for Health Research on how to manage or mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on people with dementia and their carers living in the community. It has considered the best ways to support people during the outbreak, including help to manage the impacts (both psychological and social impacts) of social distancing, self-isolation and lockdown. Please visit http://www.idealproject.org.uk/covid/ for further details.
I understand that anti-psychotic medication has been prescribed for some patients with dementia for some time in cases where harm could be caused, either to themselves or others, or if they are severely distressed. The risks and benefits of such medication should always be discussed prior to use.
The biggest vaccination rollout in our history is ongoing and currently, over 15 million have received their first jab in the UK. The vaccine has been shown to be both safe and effective – I would urge everyone to take up their invitation when offered. However, an employer cannot force their employees to receive the vaccine.
It is important that the right balance is found between the benefits of visiting on wellbeing and quality of life, and the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to social care staff and clinically vulnerable residents. Following guidance issued in November 2020, visits to care homes could take place with arrangements in place such as substantial screens or visiting ‘pods’. Visiting a care home is also listed as a ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave your home. The Government is looking to ensure that a wider range of visiting arrangements are made available for care home residents when it is safe to do so.
Visiting loved ones in care homes is vital for both residents and visitors. I look forward to a ‘new normal’ where families can meet again, as soon as it is safe to do so.