In the 6 months since national lockdown, Alzheimer Scotland has supported thousands of people with dementia, their carers and families. Like many organisations, we have reimagined and recalibrated our services, accelerating our digital innovations to give people as much stability and consistency as our bricks and mortar support. The impact on our dementia community is devastating.
We are heading into the winter months and a potential second spike in the spread of the virus. We need to protect people, but we also need to balance that with the increasing evidence of the unintended harm that we have seen over the past 6 months. We simply cannot go into the next few months without learning from what we now know. Alzheimer Scotland have raised these issues with Scottish Government ministers and have called for action to be taken now.
- We have asked that a named identified health worker is assigned to every family with a loved one in a care home to work with the family and the care home to deliver tailored visiting plans. This is required urgently to overcome the current blockages to reintroducing care home visits, which are preventing families from being recognised as equal partners in care. We need an extra level of intervention and help to ease the burden - not just for the families but also the staff. The role of the worker would be to work with the family and the care home to deliver a tailored visiting plan or together agree when that is not appropriate or safe. We believe there is more than enough staff with the right skills who could be redeployed from the existing health workforce to sit down with the individual care homes and understand their issues, then work with the family and build a personal visiting plan. That plan might be to enable visits, but where that’s not possible, to support families to cope. We are also calling for an end to blanket area-wide bans on visiting. We believe this needs to be localised and personalised, and the role of the named identified health worker can help with this.
- We have asked for a dedicated post diagnostic support fund to double the capacity to deliver high-quality person-centred support after a diagnosis, so that everyone who needs it – including those who have missed out as a result of the pandemic - can be supported after they have been diagnosed.
- To deliver Fair Dementia Care in Scotland, we have asked for an increase in the nursing care element of free personal and nursing care payments to end the inequity of people with advanced dementia paying for care, when their needs are clearly health care needs.
Scotland is widely recognised as having some of the most progressive dementia policies anywhere in the world, and there can be no doubt that substantial progress has been made, particularly in the last decade. But there are still gaps which create substantial inequalities for people living with dementia and their families and carers. This was the case in a pre covid world, but the pandemic has exposed these inequalities in the cruellest of ways and we must take action now.