A sixth of people living with dementia in Wales spent Christmas Day 2020 alone, survey reveals
A sixth of people living with dementia spent Christmas Day alone last year, a survey by Alzheimer’s Society Cymru has found.
Restrictions in place due to the pandemic meant that people were forced to spend the festive period away from their loved ones, leaving a fifth of families struggling with feelings of guilt and anger over their ‘lost Christmas’
The charity released the figures on launching its Christmas Appeal, calling on the public in Wales to donate what they can to help the 50,000 people living with dementia in Wales.
Alzheimer’s Society Cymru saw a significant spike in demand for its services during the ‘lockdown Christmas’. Calls to Alzheimer’s Society Cymru support services soared to double the previous year during the Christmas week (146% higher than 2019), remaining high after Christmas too (71% higher than 2019).
The charity’s virtual services saw a massive upsurge in searches on its website for topics such as support for carers (88% increase from 2019). Tragically, one of the most discussed topics on its online community forum Talking Point was around how to respond to loved ones in care homes asking if they’re coming home for Christmas, with over 1,500 even visiting the forum on Christmas Day.
The survey also found that:
- For nearly a third, a 15-minute visit was the only social contact during week of Christmas
- Three-fifths more likely to struggle to recognise family members since last Christmas
- Two thirds of family carers feel anxious about the Christmas season, with over a sixth of families having to make changes to usual celebrations because of their loved ones’ increase in symptoms (17%)
- Of those who did see someone during the week of Christmas2, nearly a third merely had a 15 minute visit from either a neighbour, family member or paid carer (30%) and nearly a half only had visitors to drop off Christmas dinner and presents (44%).
Over a sixth of families are having to change this year’s celebrations to adjust to an increase in symptoms (17%) in their loved ones. Since last Christmas, people affected by dementia have reported that:
- 60% people with dementia are less likely to recognise family members
- 29% find it more difficult to eat
- 35% find it harder to walk
- Two thirds of family carers (66%) are already feeling anxious about Christmas, with a quarter now having to cope with increased caring responsibilities due to an increase in their loved ones’ dementia symptoms (24%). A third are worried they will be left exhausted and won’t get enough respite (30%). This comes after family carers in Wales spent 4.8 million extra hours caring for loved ones with dementia during the pandemic
The data is yet a further reminder of how people affected by dementia in Wales have been worst hit by the pandemic. Thousands have rapidly deteriorated due to reductions in essential care and support, social isolation, and a lack of routine.
Family carers have told Alzheimer’s Society of their exhaustion, reaching breaking point, as they and their loved ones struggle to get support from a social care system in crisis.
Kevin Jones whose wife Jean has dementia and lives in a care home, knows only too well how lonely Christmas can be.
He said: “This Christmas, like last year l will be alone, the loneliness and isolation is incomprehensible.
“I am lucky in one respect, as l am now allowed to be with the woman I love (by prior appointment and with a negative lateral flow test) for 20 minutes a week.
“Even though Jean no longer recognises me, it doesn’t matter, my short visits to her care home, are all I have to keep me going.”
“Without the help and support of the Alzheimer’s Society Cymru, I cannot imagine where I would be, they are still my lifeline today, as they were 20 months ago, and I am truly thankful for their ongoing help and support.”
Cheryl James, Alzheimer’s Society Cymru Area Manager, added: “For many this festive season, the magic of Christmas will be marred by families having to cope with an unmanageable and irreversible decline in their loved ones.
“As families and friends in Wales look to go bigger and better this year to compensate for a Christmas in lockdown, people with dementia need us like never before.
“With your generous donations, we can make sure no-one must face Christmas alone and without adequate support.”
Help Alzheimer’s Society Cymru be there for people affected by dementia during one of the hardest times of the year by donating here. Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com