Carers looking after loved ones with dementia at home were left "entirely on their own" when lockdown was imposed, the Scottish Covid inquiry had heard.

Henry Simmons, the CEO of Alzheimer's Scotland, said within two or three weeks of the stay-at- home order being issued in March 2020 they were receiving regular calls from people struggling to get necessary medication or groceries, or being left in "absolute bewilderment" at being cut off from a loved one in hospital.

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Giving evidence on the fourth day of the inquiry in Edinburgh, Mr Simmons said: "What we saw very quickly was that the impact of lockdown, and the measures that were falling on carers and the family around them, was huge. People were desperate.

"In addition to these issues, some of these people developed Covid symptoms or Covid and were admitted to hospital. Carers were not allowed to go with them.

"Our staff had carers phoning up who were saying 'my husband has been taken to hospital in an ambulance but I can't go with him'.

"There were many people who never saw their loved ones again. We quickly saw trauma and pain and levels of despair that I had never witnessed in my whole working life before.

"We tried our best to help them, but very quickly it became a crisis."

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Mr Simmons said there are probably 18-20,000 care home residents living with a dementia diagnosis in Scotland plus another 60,000 people in the community.

He told the inquiry that when Scotland's Covid track and trace system was paused in mid-March when it became clear that the infection was widespread, Alzheimer's Scotland purchased 600 thermometers for every member of its staff so that employees could check for signs of a fever before coming to work.

The charity provides a range of services for people with dementia, including home visits and day centres.

The Herald: The inquiry heard how some carers for people with dementia 'never saw them again' once they were admitted to hospital with CovidThe inquiry heard how some carers for people with dementia 'never saw them again' once they were admitted to hospital with Covid (Image: Getty)

"There was a period where people had to isolate if they had a symptom because there was not the availability for testing," said Mr Simmons.

He added that once lockdown happened, Scotland moved from having a "reasonable system" in terms of dementia diagnosis, support, day services and advanced care to "having none of that".

Mr Simmons said: "At this point in time, everything stopped around this carer and that family unless there was a real significant, substantial need, and a big level of support going in.

"The family were then faced with - and this is at the point of lockdown - being entirely on their own 24/7 with very little access to support...[carers were] trying to get through their day, not knowing if they're going to be able to get their shopping, have a meal for the next day, not knowing if they can get to their GP, get access to any form of support.

"This was the types of calls we were receiving...we're somehow expecting - through their own resilience and determination - for families to pick up on all of that on their own.

"That's where the crisis came from. In my opinion, that's an unreasonable expectation to think that you can take away a whole care system and hand that over to families to deal with."

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In May 2020, Alzheimer's Scotland had taken proposals to the Scottish Government suggesting that the charity open up its resource centres to provide short respite breaks after becoming "deeply concerned" about the stress carers were under, said Mr Simmons.

He said the plans were based on a rigorous risk assessment detailing infection control measures and social distancing protocols to minimise the risk, but that permission was never granted and the charity was unable to re-open these centres until mid-2021.

Mr Simmons said it was "at that point [in May 2020] that I felt that dementia started to get lost and our client group started to fall down the priority order".

He said that there was "obviously going to be some risk attached" even with stringent infection controls "but the balance that we were arguing was that the risk of not doing it was starting to outweigh the risk of doing it".

The inquiry, before Lord Brailsford, continues.