Kate Lee describes herself as a good Yorkshire girl and says what you see is what you get. I last interviewed her in the dark days of December 2020 as people living with dementia in care homes became virtual prisoners, their relatives only allowed to see them through windows. Looking back it seems hardly possible that this is what it came to.
Of course most of those with dementia, who account for over 70pc of care home residents, had no idea what was happening, why their loved ones no longer came to see them, they felt abandoned, alone, frightened.
No one was more aware of this at the time than the chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society. Not only does Kate Lee regard her role with the charity as more than a job, saying that she couldn’t bear to look back on the pandemic and its effect on the people she represents and think that she’d failed them, but she has personal experience of the devastating impact of Covid restrictions.
Her mum Barbara was diagnosed with vascular dementia 18 years ago and now lives in a care home, so Kate and her family knew exactly what it meant not to be able to hug Barbara, or hold her hand. Kate brings us up to date on how her mum and dad are now that the pandemic is, hopefully, under control and restrictions lifted.
Kate also talks about her post-Covid vision for the Alzheimer’s Society. Back in 2020, she told me that there had been more innovation in the past six months than the past six years, and was clear that despite the devastating impact of Covid on those with dementia, the pandemic would have profound positive effects on the charity sector, with issues marked “too difficult” somehow being tackled and solved, with acceleration of the digitalisation process, more collaboration between charity CEOs and a reduction of the hierarchy between charities. Is all this good stuff beginning to happen, I wonder, or has some of it stalled?
Who better to ask than the woman who has just been named Charity Leader of the Year?