Dr Mani Santhana Krishnan
Chair of Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry, The Royal College of Psychiatrists
Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry, The Royal College of Psychiatrists
Dementia is the most common pre-existing condition among COVID-19 deaths, present in a quarter of all deaths. We must continue to adapt and innovate in order to provide this vulnerable and disproportionately affected group with the support they need.
During the pandemic some specialist services such as memory services had to close, or in some cases move to remote working, with staff redeployed to other areas. Thankfully services are starting to resume, and it is vital that we prepare now for increases in COVID-19, or even a second wave, so that we can continue to deliver care for people with dementia.
Dementia services must go on
There have been fewer referrals to specialist care, largely because of COVID-19 concerns. This has sadly led to more patients in crisis and so it is essential that primary care and GPs continue to work with services so that patients get the help they need promptly, preventing further distress.
A surge in demand is expected. Learning from the peak of the pandemic, the message is clear: we must be able to continue to assess and support those with dementia so that timely diagnoses can be made, and support provided.
Remote consultations: one size doesn’t fit all
NHS services have adapted rapidly during the pandemic with much greater use of remote consultations. This might be the way forward in terms of allowing dementia assessments to continue and preparing for a surge, but, unfortunately, one size does not fit all. Innovative ways of working are needed to ensure that all patients can get the support they need in a way that works for them.
We must continue to adapt and innovate in order to provide this vulnerable and disproportionately affected group with the support they need.
Raising awareness of delirium and dementia
Delirium is a common symptom in people with dementia, but it often goes unrecognised and unmanaged. We know that patients experiencing delirium experience poorer outcomes overall. There is a real need to improve delirium detection by raising awareness in the community, in care homes and in hospitals.
Urgent investment in dementia research needed
Over 300 dementia researchers have sent a letter to the government calling for urgent action to prevent a lost generation of academics. The risk is that the pandemic has a two-fold impact for people with dementia – directly, in terms of services and health, but also indirectly, in terms of reduced funding for dementia research.