Twice as many dementia patients died at the height of the pandemic compared to previous years, figures reveal today.
More than 25,000 died in the first two months of the outbreak alone, an analysis of official data.
Although many succumbed to the virus itself, it is feared that thousands of others have died from other conditions as a result of insufficient medical care and a lack of social contact.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), analyzed by the Alzheimer’s Society, show that in March and April, there were more than 13,000 additional deaths among dementia patients in England and Wales compared to what would be expected for this period.
Twice as many dementia patients died at the height of the pandemic compared to previous years, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal today (file photo)
Among these “excess deaths” were 8,570 people who had the virus and another 5,290 people who apparently died from another unnamed cause.
Normally, the ONS would expect 11,800 dementia patients to die over this two-month period based on the average figures from the past five years.
Assuming the 13,860 excess deaths were on top of this number, more than 25,000 people died in March and April – twice as many as normal for this period.
The grim figures will put further pressure on the government, which is accused of not properly protecting nursing homes during the pandemic.
About 70 percent of care home residents have dementia, and a total of 718,000 people with the condition live in England and Wales.
Fiona Carragher, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said, “There is a devastating loss of life. There is some evidence that people with dementia have been one of the worst affected groups, both directly and indirectly.
‘It’s horrible. People with dementia and their families and caregivers have experienced the storm. ‘
Conservative colleague Baroness Altmann, former Minister of Pensions, said: ‘I am really afraid that elderly people with dementia have been seriously neglected during this crisis.
“They are not well protected, many have not recognized individual needs, and confusion about the pandemic and emergency measures has increased the risk of death.
“With GPs who don’t visit people at home, or because people can’t have a family, the risk of dying from dehydration and malnutrition will increase dramatically.”
The grim figures will put further pressure on the government, which is accused of not properly protecting nursing homes during the pandemic (file photo)
Kate Terroni, of the Care Quality Commission, who is investigating mortality in homes alongside the US, said, “These figures show the devastating impact of Covid-19 on people with dementia.
“It is essential that even in this period of extreme pressure, care is based on the needs of the individual, taking into account the human rights and safety of the person being supported, staff and all other residents. This is particularly relevant given the enormous impact of social isolation on people with dementia. ‘
The Alzheimer’s Society believes that the pandemic caused thousands of indirect deaths among dementia patients due to the effects of social isolation and the lack of family visits.
The charity has been approached by hundreds of concerned family members who say their loved ones are going downhill and losing their ability to eat or speak. Officials are also concerned that a lack of GP visits has played a role. A survey of 128 homes by the charity earlier this month found that 76 percent of them reported that doctors were reluctant to visit residents.
Other experts believe that in some homes, dementia patients were accidentally neglected due to staff shortages, with many workers being sick or isolating themselves.
An Oxford academic said there was evidence that even those who had Covid-19 died not from the virus itself, but from dehydration.
About 70 percent of care home residents have dementia, and a total of 718,000 people with the condition live in England and Wales (photo file)
Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford and a family doctor who visits nursing homes, said a recent French study found that patients had died of a medical condition called hypovolaemia caused by thirst.
He explained, “If you lock elderly patients, especially those with dementia or Alzheimer’s, in their room, their self-care ability is very poor.
“Within a few days they can become dehydrated or delirious very easily, and then you have a big problem. As you age, you lose your ability to feel thirsty, so you lose your ability to eat and drink.
“We were totally unprepared – no protective equipment and no strategy.”
The government has been accused of not providing sufficient protection equipment to homes at the beginning of the pandemic to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
There is also concern that an NHS policy to fire hospital patients in nursing homes may have accidentally spread the virus and caused outbreaks.
The Ministry of Health and Social Care said: “We want to make this country the best country to live with dementia and do everything we can to protect the vulnerable during this unprecedented pandemic.”
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My father gave up – he didn’t know why I couldn’t come
47-year-old Vickie White noted that her demented father Bryan suddenly went downhill after not seeing him in March.
He struggled to understand video calls, and his family was told by staff at his nursing home that he had ‘given up’, quit eating and drinking.
Mrs. White, pictured with her father, said he couldn’t understand why she couldn’t see him again and at one point told her that she had abandoned him.
Vickie White, 47, noted that her father Bryan (both shown), who had dementia, suddenly went downhill after not seeing him in March
Mr. Haynes died on April 23, shortly before his 83rd birthday, of his dementia. Due to pandemic restrictions, his family was unable to be with him in his final hours.
Ms. White, who lives with her husband Martyn in Crouch, at Sevenoaks, Kent, said, “Due to the closure, we couldn’t see Dad every day and relied on video calls when we could book it.
“He didn’t understand the video calls. On the first try, he told me to be ashamed that I was not there personally and that I had let him down.
“Our worst fears were confirmed when we were told that he was at the end of his life – he gave up, stopped eating and drinking. He was unable to feed himself and told caregivers that he was not hungry and needed no help.
“Since the blockage, his health deteriorated rapidly – we’ll never know if it was because it was going to happen anyway because of his condition or because he no longer had the social and family interactions that were critical to his well-being.”