Dementia charity warning as 92m extra carer hours notched up by family members

Family and friends have spent 92 million extra hours caring for loved ones with dementia since the coronavirus lockdown and are struggling with depression, insomnia and exhaustion, a charity has warned.

More than two-thirds of carers surveyed by the Alzheimer’s Society said they feel constantly exhausted while half have developed sleeping problems, the charity said.

It found that 64% of family carers feel anxious, 49% feel depressed and 14% do not have enough time to visit their family doctor.

Some 83% said they have seen a deterioration in the people they care for due to the lockdown causing social isolation and disrupted health and care services.

The Alzheimer’s Society polled 1,102 people between August 13 and 31.

It found 50% of respondents have been spending more than 100 hours a week caring since the lockdown was announced.

It estimates informal carers have spent 614 million hours caring for loved ones in the 20 weeks up to August 13 – on average 9.8 hours a week above normal, equating to a total of 92,000,000 extra hours.

This is due to the “double whammy” of lockdown exacerbating symptoms and an underfunded social care system unable to provide support, the charity said.

However, despite working longer, 45% of those surveyed felt their loved one needs more care than they can provide and the Alzheimer’s Society’s support line has been flooded with calls from “completely burnt-out” family carers who have used its services more than two million times.

It is calling for the Government to fix social care and learn the lessons of the first wave to prevent further tragedy over the coming months.

The Government’s Covid-19 winter strategy relies on regular testing for care home staff and residents, however homes are still experiencing significant problems, including not having tests collected and delays in getting results, the charity said.

Its plan also does not put family carers on an equal footing with key workers, giving them access to personal protective equipment and regular testing, which the charity warns could risk further isolation.

There were 13,840 deaths of people with dementia involving Covid-19 from March to June.

Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Kate Lee (pictured) said the Government “must never abandon families with dementia again”.

She said: “The tens of thousands of deaths of people with dementia – and the grieving families each one has left behind – must make us pause.

“I know if social care had been on an equal footing with the NHS we would not have seen deaths on such a scale.

“I’m so angry that families and friends out in the community have been left to fend for themselves as the people they love with dementia have declined in front of their eyes. They have been fighting against the odds to give decent care to their loved ones.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Through our Adult Social Care Winter Plan, we are testing adult social care home residents and staff regularly, providing free PPE to care homes and we have ring-fenced over £1.1 billion to support providers through our Infection Control Fund.

“We know there is a need for a long-term solution for social care and are looking at a range of proposals to bring forward a plan that puts the sector on a sustainable footing for the future.”

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