A BREAKDOWN in community supports and pressure on carers has led to more elderly Scots being admitted to care homes and at an earlier stage than expected, according to charities and families.

Alzheimer Scotland said it was hearing daily of the “devastating” impact on the lives of those with dementia and their families because “everything they rely on has been completely disrupted”.

The charity said many had experienced an acceleration in their symptoms, both cognitively and physically, while helpline staff reported that many carers, who may be elderly themselves, were at “breaking point”.

Some carers reduced or cancelled home support due to fear of the virus or used savings to pay privately for support for the person living with dementia.

READ MORE: Labour leadership hopeful Monica Lennon vows to end 'unfair' dementia tax 

Jim Pearson, director of policy and research for Alzheimer Scotland, said: “In the absence of alternatives, many people with dementia have moved to care homes sooner than may have been necessary, which is often an extremely difficult decision for them and their families.’

A charity in Glasgow that runs a network for day centres across the city said 30 residents, who were regular attenders, had been admitted to care homes since the service was forced to close.

"We were never offered any help or resources to help us bring her home to keep her independence."

Lynsey Neilson, of Glasgow’s Golden Generation, described this as a ‘huge increase’, compared to previous years and said half of those had dementia. 

One care worker said: “I have noticed an increase in the number of people entering long term care.

“In my opinion, many of these admissions were premature and could possibly have been avoided if appropriate support was available, and therefore enabling the person to remain living in their own home for the foreseeable future.”

The daughter of an elderly woman who has dementia said her mother was admitted to a care home in May, originally for respite, but said due to a lack of community support for her progressing illness, it became permanent.

She said: “We looked at 24-hour private care but that was going to be as expensive as the care home fees. We thought that by August or September we would be able to get her out and about and I would spend a couple of full days with her each week but, sadly, that has never happened.”

Another said her grandmother had been transferred from hospital to a care home because the local authority had refused to put services in place in her own home and blamed the pandemic for the failure.

The Herald:

She said: "We explored all options to bring her to live with my parents in Lanarkshire and put measures in place to keep her safe but we were told due to Covid this wasn’t an option.

"When asking why we were told it was due to staff working from home, reduced staffing and not having the facilities to do so.

"We were never offered any help or resources to help us bring her home to keep her independence.

"Personally I feel like its as though social work just said, Covid is here we will just take her off our books."

READ MORE: Covid service pressures blamed for 75% rise in elderly women with dementia dying at home 

There is growing evidence that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on those with dementia, in hospitals, care homes and in the community, with women worst affected.

Figures from National Records of Scotland (NRS) show the number of deaths from dementia rose by a quarter (24.5 per cent) between April and June.

Age Scotland called for an investigation into the causes to identify whether the removal of social care packages or reduced access to medical care contributed to this.

The number of women dying with dementia at home rose by 75% according to figures that have been attributed to over-stretched health and social care services.

From March 14 to September 11 last year there were 3,116 deaths 
of women in the community attributed to dementia compared with a five-year average of 1,781.

Alzheimer Scotland produced a report, Covid-19 The Hidden Impact, which found increased frailty and a decline in mobility and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, were the most commonly reported symptoms.

Carers reported experiencing significantly higher levels of stress as a direct result of trying to manage the increased needs of those they care without support and “meaningful respite”.

One support worker said: “Pretty much every single person I’ve worked with throughout this entire lockdown period has mentioned the deterioration in the person with dementia they are caring for. 

“I don’t think there’s one family I could name that hasn’t brought that up.”

READ MORE: Special Report: Brexit and the pandemic blamed as care home residents face monthly rises of up to £240

Mr Pearson said: “Alzheimer Scotland has continued to support tens of thousands of people living with dementia, their carers and families throughout the pandemic. 

“We hear daily of the devastating impact this has had on their lives; everything they rely on has been completely disrupted. 

“Many people with dementia have experienced an acceleration 
in their symptoms, as well as a significant deterioration in their physical and mental wellbeing 

“Equally, carers are experiencing overwhelming stress and anxiety – all because of the total breakdown in the day-to-day routines and support that keep them well."

Carers also reported having to delay operations because there was no one to look after a relative or spouse while they were recovering.

It also found: “Existing health issues for carers are being exacerbated by the current pandemic due to lack of practical and social support. 

“Carers are physically doing more for the person they support in regards to personal care support, mainly due to reduction in family support and reduction in care packages”.

Scottish Care, which represents independent social care providers, said those who were considering care would be likely to be impacted by slower assessments, which could delay the process.

The Herald:

The Herald is backing Alzheimer Scotland's campaign for fairer care costs for those with advanced dementia