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Alzheimer Uniti completes study on impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people with dementia and carers

Wednesday 21 April 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused big changes for families, in the way that people live their daily lives and in their emotional and social relationships. People with dementia have been heavily impacted by isolation, resulting in changes in established routines and contributing to the onset or worsening of behavioural and psychological manifestations (anxiety, irritability, aggression) and of cognitive disorders, creating a greater workload and higher stress levels for carers. Conversely, it is known that maintaining a daily routine based on simplified and sequential activities has a reassuring effect both for people with dementia and for those around them.

Alzheimer Uniti has completed a study, observing 160 persons with dementia in various districts of Lazio, 91% with Alzheimer’s and 9% with vascular and other kinds of dementia:  60%  women (median age 81) and 40%  men (median age 77); 22  with mild dementia, 76 with moderate and 62 with severe dementia. Before the lockdown, 16% still went out independently, 81% would go out accompanied and 3% never went out. During the period of forced isolation, we stayed in touch by telephone and by sending videos as a guide for daily activities with cognitive, motor and occupational stimulation.

About 100 days after the lockdown, the impact on their lives was assessed by a questionnaire given by telephone to carers by Alzheimer Uniti psychologists. It showed that cognitive symptoms worsened in 54% of the study participants, especially in language and episodes of confusion. Behavioural symptoms worsened in 53% of the people and decline in motor skills was also observed. Nevertheless 72% of the carers stated that there was no change in their relationship with the person, and 9% said that the forced proximity improved the relationship. Only 10% of the group had to go to the emergency room. 142 carers commented that the support of Alzheimer Uniti was very useful and significant.

There is no doubt that this disruptive time has greatly affected the clinical course of the disease and people’s quality of life, but distance support has helped to mitigate behavioural and psychological disorders. This support has also reduced some anxiety and uncertainty among carers. Nothing, however, can replace face-to-face contact.