Today is 'Freedom Day', freedom from masks, freedom from a whole host of social distancing measures which have been in place to protect us and our loved ones. It has also been announced that Social Care Workers who have been 'pinged' won't have to self isolate if they have had two vaccinations, get a negative Covid test and carry on testing daily.
All this at a time when we are seeing the third wave seemingly taking off with about fifty thousand people being tested positive a day. We are also seeing live events like the football and the Grand Prix with massive crowds (three hundred and fifty thousand over the weekend at Silverstone) with no masks or social distancing.
I personally am slightly confused, I understand that a great percentage of the adult population has now been vaccinated and that it appears that vaccination is having an impact on hospital admissions but, we are only at the beginning of this and we are also seeing hospital admission rates beginning to rise (hospital admissions up nearly 40% as with deaths). These deaths are almost certainly of vulnerable people and each death represents a family losing a loved one.
If I am confused what are those with dementia and their carers feeling? There will be carers asking themselves what should I be doing, "I want dad/mum/husband/wife to have some life but how? What if they get Covid? How will I protect them?". There will be those who are vulnerable who will now refuse to wear a mask because they don't have to.
The risks seem to me still to be too high for those who are vulnerable yet the Government seem happy to open up England.
So what should I do as a Carer?
Only you know the person you are caring for and how they will react to the news that they don't need to wear a mask and that now they are free to go out and do whatever they want.
Firstly and importantly don't put yourself at risk of violence if that is likely to be a reaction to asking your loved one to do something that they may not want to do. Your health is important. You are obviously going to do all you can to continue to protect your loved one.
My advice would be to try and continue to follow all of the previous guidelines:
Purchase and use good quality face masks for both yourself and your loved one
Wear them as often as possible, especially when indoors with other people
Keep washing your hands regularly,
Use hand sanitisers,
Maintain social distancing
When meeting people try and do this outside
Keep to a restricted bubble of people (even if you create a new social bubble)
These are both worrying and positive times that we might not be able to control or manage fully. Isolation has had a detrimental impact on many living with dementia and it maybe an opportunity to gradually begin to reintroduce your loved ones to social situations for their own social wellbeing.
It may well be that the removal of masks from people could have a positive impact on someone with dementia. Meeting masked people often resulted in confusion and anxiety because they didn't know who it was behind the mask or why they were wearing one. The removal of masks from the vast majority of people will hopefully remove this anxiety.
Memory groups may be starting up again in your area and the charities that run these will be risk assessing these to ensure they are as Covid secure as possible. If you attend these groups ask the question "what measures are in place?".
As carer you may make the decision to balance personal safety with better mental health and quality of life for your loved one, but only you can make this decision. We are in unchartered territory where there are no rights or wrongs just doing the best we can for the people we love and care for.
Covid unfortunately is here to stay and whenever the Government begin to reduce the controls that protect us there will always be risks to those who are vulnerable. Is now the right time? I don't know but, we can still do all we can to protect those we love.