Covid-19 has pushed families of dementia sufferers to breaking point – Labour

Families of loved ones with dementia have been “pushed to breaking point” during the pandemic, according to Labour.

Shadow health minister Liz Kendall said there has been a higher proportion of deaths in care homes in England “than almost any other country in the developed world”, amid concerns over the Government’s handling of Covid-19.

MPs also shared their personal experiences of family members who have suffered from dementia as the House of Commons debated Dementia Action Week.

Speaking in the chamber, Ms Kendall (pictured) said: “Over the last 15 months, people with dementia and their families have suffered perhaps more than anyone else because of Covid-19.

“A quarter of all deaths from this awful virus have been amongst those with dementia, predominantly because of the tragedy in our care homes.

“Tens of thousands more have seen their condition deteriorate and families have been pushed to the breaking point, banned from seeing their loved ones in care homes for more than a year.

“The truth is there has been a higher proportion of deaths in care homes in England than almost any other country in the developed world – 25,000 people were discharged from hospital to care homes without a Covid-19 test between March 17 and April 15 last year, despite clear evidence of the virus sweeping through care homes in Italy, America and France.”

She went on: “The official guidance on testing before discharge to care homes did not change until April 16 last year, almost a month after we all went into national lockdown. We do not need Mr Cummings to tell us the rhetoric about putting a protective shield around care homes was complete nonsense, the evidence is there for all to see.”

Ms Kendall called on the Government to change the law to enshrine the rights of care home residents to have family visits.

She spoke about the “urgent need” for social care reform and to tackle the “broken” care system, adding: “The truth is when the virus struck our care system was far weaker than it ever should have been after a decade of cuts taking £8 billion out of the care system at a time of growing demand.”

For the Government, health minister Helen Whately said: “At the start of the pandemic many memory assessment services had to close and the dementia diagnosis rate has dropped below the national ambition for the first time since 2016.

“While we have supported remote or virtual memory assessment services, I recognise this isn’t for everyone. I want to see in-person services fully functional as soon as possible because a diagnosis can make such a difference.”

Conservative MP Jacob Young (Redcar) spoke of the differing experiences of his two grandfathers, who both had Alzheimer’s disease.

He explained his granddad Mick had a rare form of Alzheimer’s called posterior cortical atrophy, noting: “I remember he would sit and watch the Weakest Link and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and University Challenge and get almost every answer right, but he would struggle to tie his shoes or find a way around the coffee table.”

It took five years for the right diagnosis of the disease and he also struggled to receive the right care and medication, Mr Young said.

The MP added: “I spoke to my grandma this morning and asked her what message she wanted me to get across today and it was simply this: that diagnosis is key and then support into the right care.”

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