New dementia study to explore impact of COVID-19 social services cuts

The University of Liverpool is leading a new COVID-19 study to explore the effects of social service closures on the lives of older people, people with dementia and unpaid carers.

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

However, due to COVID-19 these face-to-face services are now temporarily closed, leaving huge gaps in this important support. Family carers may now be struggling to provide enough support for their loved ones and those living alone with dementia may have found themselves completely shut off from much needed social support.

An expert team of NHS, voluntary and academic collaborators have been brought together to try and understand the immediate and longer-term implications of these COVID-19 related closures on the people most affected.

The two-part study funded by the University of Liverpool’s COVID-19 Strategic Research Fund, is being headed up by Dr Clarissa Giebel, Postdoctoral Research Associate, from the University’s NIHR ARC NWC team.

The first part of the study involves a telephone interview with a researcher to capture how people are faring under current Covid-19 regulations. This should take no more than 45 minutes to complete.

Dr Giebel said: “We want to hear from unpaid carers and people living with dementia, either alone or in a supported context. They can have their voice heard in our research and the results will be put in front of decision makers.”

The team is also working with collaborators at UCLAN, Lancaster University, University of Bradford, and UCL to investigate the wider national picture of the effects of social care service closures and self-isolation on well-being. This second part of the study, which is aimed at older people, people with dementia, and unpaid carers, can be done online or via the phone and requires a commitment of 30 minutes three times over a period of 12 weeks.

The project has already gained support from key service providers in the city.

National Museums Liverpool’s award-winning dementia awareness programme – House of Memories is sharing the new study through its networks across the UK to reach people living with dementia, and their carers.

Carol Rogers, Director of House of Memories at National Museums Liverpool said: “This vital research by the University of Liverpool will helps us to fully understand the impact of Covid-19 on families living with and affected by dementia during this difficult time of social isolation. We want to extend the reach of this study to our audiences to ensure their voices are heard and consider how we can adapt House of Memories’ programme based on the research.”

Anna Gaughan, Chief Executive at Life Story Network said: “As from April 1st local authorities will have the power to implement more stringent cuts- further reducing their support for unpaid carers under the emergency Covid-19 Act.

“Taking part in this vital research and sharing your experience of the impact of these cuts will help inform the six-month review that the government has committed to undertaking.

“We want to ensure that the voice of unpaid carers of people with dementia still continues to influence policy, research and practice during this critical time.”

The project is being conducted in partnership with a large number of NHS Trusts and front-line care support providers, including Mersey Care NHS Trust, North West Boroughs NHS Trust, Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Trust, Tide Carers, The Brain Charity, National Museums Liverpool, SURF Liverpool, Lewy Body Society, Liverpool and Wigan Dementia Action Alliance, Sefton Older People’s Forum, and Me2U Day Care Centre.

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