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Alzheimer's charity: elderly could become the "lost group"

Alzheimer's charity: elderly could become the

Friday 29 May 2020

Alzheimer's charity: elderly could become the "lost group"


The Jersey Alzheimer’s Association has criticised the Government for ignoring their advice and “overlooking the care and support of older people” throughout the covid-19 crisis, which has caused some islanders’ dementia symptoms to worsen.

Sean Pontin, the charity’s Chief Executive, applauded the Government for their efforts in “focusing and mobilising key services at a difficult and unclear time;” but said they had also chosen to ignore advice, comment and requests from them, and from health staff.

Having always enjoyed a good working relationship with the government, Mr Pontin said JAA “very much regrets and is disappointed to have to vocalise its frustration and criticism at this very difficult time."

“We would not have wanted to do that but we have a responsibility to advocate for our clients when there is a gap.” 

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Pictured: Sean Pontin, Jersey Alzheimer’s Association Chief Executive.

Mr Pontin said that early on in the health crisis, the charity contacted Connect Me – an initiative launched to bring together and match up the help and support available from government, the Parishes, the voluntary and community sector, local businesses and individuals stepping forward to volunteer, with the needs of islanders – to be included in their leaflets, but it was in vain.

“Not everyone sees themselves as needing help, not everyone sees themselves as having an ‘emotional or mental health’ problem as it is classified via Connect Me,” the charity wrote. 

“Once again JAA has been tireless in asking that our services are highlighted and our organisation and contact details are included in Connect Me and other leaflets and wording softened to appeal more widely. 

“To date a conscious decision has been made not to adapt this information and JAA has had to invest significant amounts in placing adverts to try and ensure that the community is aware of our continued support.”

“We asked the government to produce leaflets as well as the social media announcements.”

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Pictured: The JAA says its advice is being ignored by government. 

In addition, the charity’s Chief Executive mentioned how the announcement around the Ethical Care protocol – an official guidance drawn up to help medical professionals decide whose patients should receive critical care –  had caused alarm amongst the elderly and JAA’s clients. 

He suggested the charity could have been advised the announcement was planned, allowing the team to prepare and support those who may be anxious and upset.

“I am really worried that this group could become lost,” Mr Pontin said. “We are missing on an opportunity to communicate with them.” 

But Jersey’s Alzheimer’s Association is also concerned about the impact physical distancing has had on people, causing some to lose recognition of loved ones or to deteriorate more rapidly.  

“Their dementia is going downhilll,” Mr Pontin said. “Their ability to respond and react is not the same. With dementia, we always talk about the importance of keeping the brain healthy, social interaction is really important for that.”

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Pictured: The lack of contact is having “serious health implications” for islanders with dementia.  

JAA is therefore asking the Government to take measures to keep islanders with dementia safe and well, as the lack of contact is having “serious health implications” for them.  

Carers are also struggling being locked up and feeling anxious as they wait for their parents or partners to be assessed by the Memory Clinic, which closed down entirely in March, as staff were redeployed in other mental health services. 

Luckily, Mr Pontin said some staff from the clinic have been able to give patients a call and give them some support. He explained that despite requests from staff to carry out appointments virtually nothing has been done.

“We understand the need to consider all options at this unprecedented time however no skeleton staff team was left to support people with dementia, those waiting for results of tests or carers in crisis,” the charity said. 

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Pictured: There is an “absolute and urgent need” for a plan that “supports this most vulnerable group through this crisis and not just rely on charities to do it for them” the JAA said.

“JAA became the main signpost for all dementia support and only because of the good will and absolute commitment of key Health & Social Care practitioners to go the extra mile have clients had anywhere close to the support needed.”

The closure, Mr Pontin said, will have an impact on people’s mental health and the progression of their illness. 

The charity was therefore pleased to hear the Health department is considering how to reintroduce support services via the Memory Clinic as soon as possible. 

They have however warned that given the clear evidence that people living with dementia are amongst those most negatively impacted, there is an “absolute and urgent need” for the Government to come up with a plan that “supports this most vulnerable group through this crisis and not just rely on charities to do it for them”.

Express has approached the government for a response to the JAA's comments. 

 

To read Jersey Alzheimer's Association's letter in full click here.

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