Dementia charity sees 44% increase in calls during COVID-19 lockdown

The number of people calling the Dementia UK helpline has risen by 44% during lockdown.

Figures exclusively shared with Sky News show hundreds more are seeking help for relatives with dementia because of COVID-19.

In March this year 2,114 calls were made to the charity's helpline, compared to 1,464 in March last year.

Dementia UK say families coping with dementia are "particularly vulnerable" during the coronavirus lockdown.

Hannah Riches met her husband Neil when they were both working in the police.


Image: Neil was diagnosed with early onset dementia when he was just 51

She said her husband was a "proud" officer, and their lives were "turned upside down" when at 51 he was diagnosed with early onset dementia.

The couple now live in Berkshire with their 10 and 11-year-old daughters. Mrs Riches said it has been "heartbreaking" watching his condition deteriorate.

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"What's so sad is seeing him unable to look after himself. He looked after us all, and seeing the girls having to take on the role of looking after him, is heartbreaking really.

"I think on some subconscious level he has been aware of that, that's very difficult to see."

For the last six weeks Mrs Riches has been juggling home schooling and caring for her husband at home.

She has struggled with losing a routine during lockdown, and added: "Normally he has some structure to his week, some social interaction.

"Neil had choir on a Tuesday, badminton on a Wednesday and then a friend always meets him and takes him for a walk on Thursday. I realise now those snippets really, really helped give me a break.

Neil and Hannah Riches
Image: The couple live in Berkshire with their 10 and 11-year-old daughters

"I've definitely noticed he's become much more withdrawn and self-isolated even within the home.

"He can get agitated, and pace round the house, you ask him what's wrong and he can't tell you, he can't voice what it is. They say you should distract, I try to distract him, but it's easier said than done."

Dementia UK has warned that lockdown is not just causing practical difficulties, but also impacting on the mental health of those caring for loved ones.

Mrs Riches said the most challenging part of the last seven weeks has been being unable to see her friends and family.

"People ask 'How do you cope? How do you get on?' You have to, but also it's through the support and care and consideration and kindness of my friends and family, that's how you cope.

"They look out for you and they help you and they offer you respite and friendship and laughter. I have had lots of Zoom and FaceTime messages, but it's not the same as seeing them.

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