Life under lockdown and social restrictions - the experiences of people living with dementia and their carers during the COVID-19 pandemic in England

BMC Geriatr. 2021 May 10;21(1):301. doi: 10.1186/s12877-021-02257-z.


Background: The impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people living with dementia and their carers is an emerging focus of recent research determining how we can best support this population. People living with dementia have faced service curtailment, increased risk for COVID-19, as well as potential heightened deterioration. This study reports the experiences of people living with dementia and their family carers during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in England and the impact on them.

Methods: We recruited and remotely interviewed 30 people living with dementia in their own homes and 31 family carers, via video or telephone call in mid-2020. Data were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: People living with dementia often had a basic understanding of COVID-19 restrictions but could have difficulty translating this into personalised risk-appraisal of their own actions. Managing COVID-19 risks facing people living with dementia at home was largely done by family carers, exemplified by changes to living arrangements, which could strain or sustain caring relationships. Well-established familial caring relationships contributed to the wellbeing of the person living with dementia and their carer, as well as keeping to simple routines that included leaving the home for exercise and stimulation. People living with dementia reported some negative psychological and cognitive effects due to the imposed restrictions, such as increased apathy, irritability, or anxiety, which were fuelled by lack of social engagement.

Conclusions: Structuring routine (remote) social interactions where possible could increase social engagement and improve wellbeing for people living with dementia, especially those with limited familial support in a post-COVID-19 context. As some care relationships had been restructured to manage COVID-19 risks, additional carer strain may emerge as a result of the impact on the independence of the person living with dementia and come to the attention of professionals in health and care services. People living with dementia and their carers highlighted the importance of maintaining or adapting routines which may be useful learning for professionals, although additional support may be necessary for those who are impacted by more severe or worsening symptoms of dementia.

Keywords: COVID-19; Carers; Dementia; Qualitative Research; Social engagement; Social restrictions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Caregivers
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Dementia* / diagnosis
  • Dementia* / epidemiology
  • England / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2