Dear Members and Supporters

This week there has been a number of important and positive developments in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. This has involved further Scottish Government changes to care home visiting, and we wanted to ensure our members and supporters are aware of these changes, and what we are currently calling for.

A summary of the most recent key developments are:

• A Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK and will begin to be rolled out in Scotland on the 8th December

• People living and working in care homes will be among the first groups of people to be offered the vaccine

• From the 14th December, all care homes in Scotland will have access to testing kits to support visiting

• The period a care home must close after an outbreak will be reduced from 28 days to 14 days

These measures are a positive step forward, which we hope will help care homes to more confidently and safely support residents to spend meaningful and valuable time with their families and friends. As we learn more, we will provide you with further updates.

We know from the high level of contacts and individuals we have supported that the difficulties families are experiencing with visiting their loved ones in care homes have been among the most challenging impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Alzheimer Scotland fully recognises the difficult balance between keeping people who are residents in care homes safe from the virus and preventing the extreme harms that we know are caused by the restrictions.

While these recent announcements are most welcome, it remains likely that we still face significant restrictions for several months. Alzheimer Scotland’s view is that more emphasis must be placed on the status of families as equal partners in care. We firmly believe that there needs to be more support available to families and, where required, care homes in order to ensure the highest level of communication, engagement, emotional and practical support is provided to every single family member consistently throughout Scotland. We have proposed that additional support is provided to ensure that every person going through this has a dedicated contact. We still believe that this is essential in order to provide the right level of personalised support and care for those individuals most impacted by the current restrictions.

In a pandemic such as this, there will unfortunately be some need for protections and restrictions that will infringe the rights of people entering or living in our care homes. In exercising such restrictions and limiting people’s rights in this way, we must ensure that the implications of such decisions are followed with a greater effort to include those most deeply affected. This is particularly important in ensuring that families are involved in the decision-making processes and care planning decisions of their loved ones. We know that this has happened for many people, yet we also know a large number of family members have not enjoyed any sense of being an equal partner in these decisions or the care of their loved one. As we go forward, we want to ensure that the embedded rights and principles of equal partners in care is afforded to every family member and that no one is left out or left on their own to deal with the traumatic impact of not being able to see their loved ones. We also recognise the significant pressure that our care home colleagues are working under and we deeply appreciate their immense level of commitment and care, and the sacrifices many have made. It is essential, in our view, that those local services who are struggling to engage fully with families receive extra support, and that this crisis is responded to by the collective resources within our local communities.

This is why our local frontline staff and volunteers, including our Dementia Advisors and 24 hour Freephone Dementia Helpline (0808 808 3000), stand ready to support you and play our part in helping those families and relatives going through this as best we can, so please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

In the meantime, please stay safe and well.

Henry Simmons

Chief Executive