8th March 2021

Demand for Alzheimer’s Support’s services has soared during the pandemic, as families living with dementia in Wiltshire struggle with the effects of social isolation and a reduction in other services.

Telephone support from the charity’s team of dementia advisers increased by 680% between April and December 2020 (from 658 to 3,559 calls) and saw an even greater, nine-fold increase in the first two months of this year.

“Many of these calls are emotional, and many of them last for over an hour,” said Dementia Adviser Manager Diane Barkham.  “The team has really stepped up in the past year, being there for people who often do not know which way to turn.”

Trowbridge dementia adviser Chris Maple said: “I support 185 families and my colleagues have similar numbers across Wiltshire. At our first meeting I’ll normally spend a couple of hours getting to know my client and their family, find out what stage the dementia is at and what support they need and put together an action plan. After that we stay in regular contact and families can always ring me.

Families keen to see dementia advisers and seek support

“The pandemic has had a big impact on how we work. It made it harder for us to see clients face-to-face, but we still provide the same level of help and support. Many of our families have found that other health professionals and charities are not visiting them, and GPs won’t always visit, so they are very keen to see us and seek help.

“This latest lockdown has been very different from the first one. During the summer I didn’t get many so calls from my families as they could at least enjoy their gardens, but now people are struggling with not being able to get out because of the cold weather. Some carers are at their wits’ end and they call asking “How do I communicate with my loved one, how do I entertain them, how do I learn to say no?

“In some cases the restrictions, lack of social stimulation and not being able to get out has caused the dementia to move along more rapidly. And some calls I receive can be challenging if the client or carer is in distress. It’s worse if they’re calling from a mobile and the reception is breaking up or the person I’m speaking to has hearing difficulties. It can be very emotional.

“Our families know you are not going to solve all their problems, but they take great comfort that there is someone who spends a good deal of time listening, not judging, and providing them with options. When you leave a visit or finish a call and you sense that you have made a real difference to somebody, even if it’s just for that hour or day – that’s the most rewarding part.”

Carilyn Telford, who cares for her husband John, said: “The dementia advisers are a wonderful group of people. I met Chris Maple a few years ago and found him to be such a kind, caring and reassuring man. I went to his office on an off chance to speak to someone, he sat me down, a cup of tea appeared, and he listened to me pouring my heart out. His advice has proved invaluable, as inevitably my husband’s Alzheimer’s has progressed. Thank you Mr Maple, you gave me strength when I needed someone to listen.”

Learn more about dementia advisers