Alzheimer’s Research UK has welcomed news that regular coronavirus testing for residents with dementia is set to begin in care homes.
The Department of Health and Social Care has announced plans to regularly test staff and residents in care homes for coronavirus from Monday 6 July. Under the plans, care homes looking after over 65s or people living with dementia, will take priority for testing. Staff will be tested on a weekly basis and residents will be tested monthly.
The announcement comes as new figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that 19,394 care home residents in England Wales died with coronavirus between 2 March and 12 June.
People with dementia have been some of the hardest hit by COVID-19. It is estimated that one in four people who have died from COVID-19 also had dementia, while there has also been an increase in deaths from dementia that were not related to COVID-19.
It is estimated that two thirds of care home residents are living with dementia.
Samantha Benham-Hermetz, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We are encouraged that our calls to increase testing for coronavirus in care homes have been heard, and it’s now vital that testing begins quickly, as lives depend on it. It will also be crucial for test results to be shared with public health leaders locally without delays, to enable decision makers to take swift action in the case of any new outbreaks.
“People in care homes have tragically been bearing the brunt of this pandemic for too long, and people with dementia have been particularly hard. Over the past few months, we’ve seen a sharp and unacceptable increase in the number of people dying with dementia and we must do everything we can to understand why if we are to put a stop to this devastation.
“By regularly testing people with dementia in care homes, we stand a much better chance of protecting people who have so far been disproportionality affected by COVID-19. It could also help us to unravel why those with dementia, who have not been diagnosed with COVID-19, have been dying in greater numbers than during normal times. While this increased death toll may be due to social distancing measures exacerbating dementia symptoms, until testing is rolled out fully we cannot know the true impact of COVID-19 on people with dementia.”