Dr Hibbert, who also chairs the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly dementia partnership board said: “I know first-hand how people living with dementia and those close to them have struggled through the pandemic. I have been humbled by the strength and courage of people when I have listened to the stories of my patients and their carers. There is no doubt the dementia community have been one of the most adversely affected groups. Loved ones lost, isolation, confusion and lack of face-to-face contact have made the past 12 months an incredibly distressing time.
“As well as being difficult for people living with dementia, it has also been a very challenging time for professionals and volunteers working and supporting people. We have had to adapt quickly to the situation and whilst I acknowledge we haven’t always got it right, I have seen many examples where people have gone above and beyond, determined to deliver compassionate care.”
Technology has been one of the biggest hurdles for services to conquer during the pandemic. Hospitals, care homes and community groups had to close their doors to visits leaving the elderly cut off from regular social interaction.
One example of many support groups that adapted digitally to connect with their members is Memory Matters South West which provides compassionate support, therapies and peer-led activities for people living with dementia.
Laura Walker, co-founder and chief executive of Memory Matters South West said: “When COVID hit we knew we had to think creatively about how we stayed in touch with our members. People were left in very vulnerable, isolating situations, many were not used to socialising online.
Laura and her team committed to offering their member sessions virtually. They had low expectations about how it could work online but within a few weeks most of their members were set up and actively participating from their own homes.”
Laura said: “We refused to accept that people living with dementia wouldn’t be able to get online and we were determined to support them. We secured funding for the technology and provided our members with Facebook portals, which are very easy for people with dementia and their carers to access. We gave technical support and easy read instructions and very quickly they were ready for the weekly meetings. One of our members Clare even celebrated her 100th birthday online with us!”
Dr Hibbert added: “On dementia action week we are raising awareness of the condition, and the support available to people and their families.
“I also want to take this moment to champion our dementia professionals. The doctors, nurses and community groups who have refused to let the challenges of how they care, stop the caring.”
Help and support
Symptoms of dementia include:
- memory loss
- thinking speed
- mental sharpness and quickness
- using words incorrectly, or trouble speaking
- difficulties doing daily activities
People with dementia can lose interest in their usual activities, and may have problems managing their behaviour or emotions, and aspects of their personality may change. They may also find social situations difficult and lose interest in relationships and socialising.
Although there is no cure for dementia, an early diagnosis helps people get the right treatment and support. It can also help them to prepare for the future.
With treatment and support, many people are able to lead active, fulfilled lives with dementia.
Anyone who is worried about their mental health, or that of a loved one should talk to their GP. There are also lots of dementia services in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to support people.
Cornwall have a multi-agency dementia partnership board which meet monthly. Dementia action alliances together with the police, community safety, housing, social care, hospitals, the Cornwall memory cafe network, home care providers, residential care providers, the voluntary care sector and others work together to lead improvements in dementia care across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to raise awareness of this long-term condition.