The impact of the Covid19 pandemic on the ability to maintain community connection for people living with dementia.
Executive Summary The following project was created in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland. Alzheimer Scotland aims to “make sure nobody faces dementia alone. We provide support and information to people with dementia, their carers and families, we campaign for the rights of people with dementia and fund vital dementia research” (Alzheimer Scotland 2021). The research was conducted with members from the Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG), who are a “national, member led campaigning and awareness raising group for people living with a diagnosis of dementia in Scotland” (Alzheimer Scotland 2021). Alzheimer Scotland developed a framework called the 8 Pillar Model (Alzheimer Scotland 2012), where one pillar focused on the importance of building and maintaining community connections to allow for continued independence, participation and inclusion in occupation (Alzheimer Scotland 2012). Social connection has been defined as “feeling close to and bonded with other people” (Cacioppo and Patrick 2008). For people living with dementia, social distancing and self-isolation as a result of the Covid19 pandemic have limited social connection (Alzheimer Europe 2020). This connection previously played a vital role in helping those living with dementia to live well and reduce their chances of loneliness and isolation (Dam et al. 2016 and Wedgeworth et al. 2017). Not only this, social interaction allowed them to engage in meaningful activity, facilitating their need for communication, self esteem, and sense of identity (Bennett et al. 2006). Therefore, it is acknowledged that social interaction is linked to improved general wellbeing (Dam et al. 2016 and Willis et al. 2016) and an improved quality of life for people living with dementia (Giebel et al. 2016). For those who received social support prior to the Covid19 outbreak, these services were almost immediately stopped and for those which could continue, there was a shift to online interaction rather than face to face (Giebal et al. 2020). With this, also came challenges. A study carried out by Rosenberg et al. in 2009, stated that technology may be more challenging to use for older adults, especially those living with dementia. They raised the 17003400 2 concern that these individuals may become at risk of exclusion from engagement and participation where technology is used. However, technology has played a huge role in maintaining social connection during this pandemic (Garfin 2020). A conversation was carried out with four participants from SDWG to explore their perspectives of how community connection has or has not been affected as a result of the Covid19 pandemic. Through a general inductive analysis approach, two key themes were developed. These themes were “social interaction- “no longer busy” and “the importance of links.” The findings from the research successfully met the objectives originally set out which were 1. To understand if community connection has been challenged or impacted during the Covid19 pandemic. 2. To identify strategies which may have facilitated continued participation in occupation in the community for those living with dementia during the Covid19 pandemic. 3. To understand to what extent individuals living with dementia have faced occupational disruption during the Covid19 pandemic. The findings of this research project could be used to support Alzheimer Scotland to secure funding in the future as well as to potentially ensure that appropriate support is available to older adults with dementia in using technology. This knowledge could then be used to create tailored strategies aimed at ensuring that people living with dementia receive the best possible care and that the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia 8 Pillar Model of support is fully implemented.