‘I fear this time has been lost and we can’t get it back’

By Mary Dennehy

A LOCAL woman who cares for her father has spoken of the challenges faced by families during lockdown, and the impact it has had on the wellbeing of people with dementia as services remain closed.

Living in Tallaght, full-time carer Denise Monahan (56) believes it is crucial that the Government issues a roadmap for the re-opening of dementia-specific services such as day care.

Seamus Cunningham and daughter and carer Denise Monahan compressor

Seamus Cunningham and daughter and carer Denise Monahan

Denise cares for her dad Seamus (82), who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s eight years ago and has attended The Alzheimer Society of Ireland’s (ASI) Rose Cottage day centre since.

This week, new research published by the ASI highlights how 86 per cent of carers are concerned about a decline in their loved one during lockdown, while 58 per cent of respondents with dementia report feeling ‘lonely’, ‘isolated’, ‘trapped’ and ‘confined’.

“The lockdown has proved very challenging for my dad and for us as a family”, Denise said.

“He had no concept of the word virus and so could not understand why he could not go out.

“Dad is a sociable man and it caused him great confusion, not seeing friends, neighbours and family.

ASI CEO Pat McLoughlin compressor

ASI CEO Pat McLoughlin

“I am worried about the impact it will have on him – he is so used to cocooning now, he just wants to stay in the house.

“Perhaps the most heart breaking aspect of the lockdown is that my brothers could not visit and now Dad struggles to identify them.

“He has not seen some of them since March and Zoom and technology like that only confuses him.”

According to Denise, the closure of the day centre was a “huge loss”, with her dad not really remembering Rose Cottage now.

“The worry for me now, the longer this goes on, is that he might not want to go back at all”, Denise said.

“He used to be the first person on the bus with his suit on ready to go.

“I fear this time has been lost and we can’t get it back.

“It is frustrating that I can get my hair, nails and eyes done and yet this vital service is not available for dad's social and emotional wellbeing. 

“He went three mornings a week and that gave my mam a much needed break; she has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and is not long home from a five-week stay in hospital herself. 

“We need the day care centre open as soon as possible – the sooner, the better.”

The research conducted by ASI included 126 carers and 15 individuals with dementia.

According to ASI, the report reveals “worrying long-term implications” of the lockdown, with 75 per cent of respondents with dementia concerned about a decline in their mental health.

Some 61 per cent of family carers who responded are also concerned for their own mental health.

According to Pat McLoughlin, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland CEO: “While many family carers were struggling to cope prior to Covid-19, this crisis has amplified their difficulties and turned everyday caring into a daily struggle.

“It is also clear that the health of people with dementia has deteriorated during lockdown.

“In our initial Covid-19 Survey in early April, some carers expressed the fear that they would be forgotten in the midst of the crisis.

“It is so obvious from reading this report that this fear has been realised as they and those they care for have been rendered invisible throughout this pandemic.

“Our research findings show that living in lockdown has taken an enormous toll on the wellbeing and mental health of family carers, a toll that has intensified as Covid-19 restrictions on dementia-specific services have continued despite other lockdown restrictions lifting.”

He added: “It is clear from this report that face-to-face services, such as day care, must reopen as soon as possible.

“We are waiting for Government guidelines and information on this.

“But it is obvious from this report that given the very dark picture of people’s reality that it presents, this wait cannot go on any longer. We are eager to get this process started as soon as possible.”

The ASI has submitted proposals to expand home care support and the safe reopening of day services to the HSE.

The ASI has continued to support people with dementia and their families, with its home care, dementia advisors, national helpline and online family carer training remaining open.

The society has also implemented new ways of providing ASI supports remotely to clients, and has developed some tip and fact sheets to help support people with dementia and their families.

Visit www.alzheimer.ie for more or call the national helpline from Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 4pm, on 1800 341 341.

Alternatively, email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or live chat at www.alzheimer.ie.

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