Dementia Increases COVID Risks

Newcastle Libraries has a memory room program for older people to access. Memory Room participants Sarah Greentree-Beddow and her mother Sandra Greentree, and program facilitator Alice Ropata. The Memory Room uses images and items from the Local History collection to evoke memories and encourage participants to share stories and laughter.

 

OLDER Australians have always been at higher risk from COVID – and now there is now evidence that people living with Dementia are also more vulnerable.

Dementia Australia supports mandatory vaccinations across the aged care sector and urges people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment, and their loved ones, to receive a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.

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Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment are more vulnerable to contracting severe COVID-19 and once infected, have a high risk of disease-related morbidity and mortality.

“We know that during this pandemic people living with dementia are some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” Ms McCabe said.

Dementia Australia Honorary Medical Advisor Associate Professor Michael Woodward AM said recent research on the impact of the pandemic shows that people living with dementia, especially those in residential aged care, are at risk of worsening dementia and psychiatric symptoms, and severe behavioural disturbances as a result of lockdown measures and social isolation.

“We need high levels of vaccination across the sector and in the community to protect people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment, their families and carers,” Assoc Prof Woodward said.

“Mandatory vaccination of the aged care workforce will reassure people impacted by dementia and their families that they are supported by people who are vaccinated and significantly less likely to spread the virus.”

“Residential aged care workers are leading Australia’s overall vaccination rates and these numbers continue to grow.

We acknowledge our aged care workers for leading the community in being vaccinated.”

Dementia Advocate Bobby Redman, who is living with dementia, said, “Home-care workers often visit the homes of many different clients each week.

“I feel much safer knowing that, as a condition of employment, my carers are now vaccinated and keeping us safe.”

People living with dementia, their families and carers have told Dementia Australia that despite the high levels of vaccination of staff and residents, some residential aged care homes have still not been able to offer appropriate alternatives to essential visits and this has resulted in poor physical and psychological outcomes for residents with dementia.

“During this time, the aged care sector is under increasing stress.

“For those impacted by dementia, there will be an added layer of anxiety,” Ms McCabe said.

“A focus on promoting social engagement to restore mental health and wellbeing as we move beyond lockdown solutions is in everybody’s best interests.

“Dementia Australia is here to support the 472,000 Australians living with dementia and the 1.6 million people involved in their care.

“Please get in touch with our National Dementia Helpline as questions and concerns arise, on 1800 100 500 or visit dementia.org.au for webchat, resources and information in other languages.”

One Port Stephens family that self manages their Level 4 package told News Of The Area, “Sadly we have had to let one of our care team members go as they did not want to get vaccinated.”

However the family is confident that they will find another carer through the Mable platform.

For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

An interpreter service is available and the Helpline is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays.

The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government.

People looking for information can also visit dementia.org.au.

 

By Marian SAMPSON

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