group of elderly people doing chair exercises

Exploring the effects of COVID-19 on people with dementia

Research led by the University of Liverpool is exploring the effects of COVID-19 related social service closures on the lives of older people, people with dementia, and unpaid carers. A team of NHS, third sector, and academic collaborators, as well as people affected by dementia have come together to conduct what is the very first COVID-19 funded dementia study.

Working to understand the true effect of service closures

Led by Dr Clarissa Giebel from the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast, this two-part study aims to understand the immediate and long-term effects of social service closures on the wellbeing of older people, people living with dementia, and unpaid carers.

Across the UK, over 850,000 people currently live with dementia, with carers providing an estimated £13 billion of unpaid care a year.

Clarissa said: “People living with dementia and older people can be heavily reliant on accessing support groups, social activities in the community, befrienders, day care centres, or singing and dancing groups to stay socially active and get the support that health care services cannot provide.

“However, due to COVID-19 these face-to-face services are now temporarily closed down, leaving huge gaps in support and care needs. Family carers are struggling to provide enough support for their loved one living with dementia and those living alone with dementia now finding themselves completely shut off from much-needed social support.”

Under the emergency COVID-19 act, local authorities may soon implement more stringent cuts, further reducing their support for unpaid carers. This vital research will help inform the Government’s six-month review of these measures.

Study volunteers sought

The first phase of the study will see researchers undertaking phone conversations with those living with or providing care to those living with dementia under current COVID-19 regulations in the UK. The study team are looking for volunteers to participate.

“We are very keen to hear from unpaid carers for those living with dementia, and people living with dementia,” said Dr Clarissa Giebel.

The second part of the study is a new national survey led by the University of Liverpool, in collaboration with the University of Bradford, UCL, Lancaster University, and UCLan. The survey is specifically aimed at understanding the long-term effects of social service closures on the well-being of older people, people living with dementia, and unpaid carers.

Contact Dr Clarissa Giebel on Clarissa.Giebel@liverpool.ac.uk if you are interested in taking part in the study.

Working in partnership

“Both studies are in collaboration with a large number of NHS Trusts and support providers,” Clarissa says. “We are also indebted to the unpaid carers and person living with dementia who form part of our research team.”

Collaborating organisations include:

Dr Clarissa Giebel’s group at the University of Liverpool includes Professor Mark Gabbay, Professor Lisa ShawDr Sarah Butchard and Professor Kate Bennett.

This research is funded by the University of Liverpool’s COVID-19 Strategic Research Fund.

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