Discussion paper

One day the support was gone

The mental health impact of COVID-19 on people living with dementia, their families and carers
Dementia Mental health promotion Caregivers Social isolation Rural health Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people living with dementia, families and carers in a multitude of ways. Like all of us, the routines of day-to-day life have been significantly interrupted. A less obvious but no less significant impact has been the adverse effect that physical distancing, restrictions and lock-down measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have had on the physical, social and mental wellbeing of people living with dementia, as well as those caring for them.

People impacted by dementia already experience lower levels of social engagement, inclusion and connectedness within their communities. This, coupled with the restrictions enforced through the COVID-19 pandemic, has meant that people living with dementia, their families and carers, are even more vulnerable to adverse mental health outcomes.

A nationally consistent response to COVID-19 (and any future pandemics) by the Australian Government, which includes a plan to support aged care providers to deliver quality care and minimise the mental health impact of pandemic responses, must continue to be made a priority. It is imperative that aged care, health, allied health and disability systems communicate effectively and work collaboratively to support the mental health and wellbeing of people living with dementia, their families and carers.

Key recommendations:

  • the development of future programs and supports acknowledge the unique needs of people with dementia through the development of key performance indicators or Aged Care Quality Standards based in a human rights framework
  • critical priority is given to mitigating isolation and loneliness in people living with dementia and family carers by home and residential aged care providers and that the Australian government facilitates this through ongoing mental health and aged care support services
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