Caring for a loved one living with dementia can sometimes be a struggle for people who have little or no social network. The Corona virus has made this more difficult for everyone, having to isolate people in their own homes with little or no contact with the outside world. People who have moderate dementia (which includes Alzheimer’s disease) may not be able to weigh up the risks associated with the virus or understand why they have to follow the government guidelines to self-isolate. Here is some guidance for if you are caring for a loved one with the condition on how to cope during this time.
- Hygiene – make sure they have hand wash & sanitizer & that if they have visitors, they also use it. If the person who has dementia does not understand the need to wash hands, encourage them by saying ” I’m going to wash my hands now” instead of telling them, show them. You could mime what you want them to do such as brushing teeth, people will often mirror you when they may not understand what you are saying, if helpful use music, rhythm can put people in a good mood & help with movement if their joints are a bit stiff.
- Trying to leave home – The person who has dementia may not understand why they need to stay indoors & may try to leave the house. Try and explain to them that there has been an outbreak of flu and they need to stay in.
- They may be used to going out to work: what were their jobs/hobbies? If you have the space set up different areas in the house, look for items in the home to keep them interested & occupied, e.g. typewriter for secretaries, oily rags & tools if they worked on cars, create a working space for them to potter. Think of your senses to create memory boxes of bits & bobs- smell, sight, touch, hearing, sometimes rummaging through button boxes, folding socks, sorting seed packets can help.
- They may be wanting to “go home” or looking for their mother; this may mean they may be searching for security & comfort and they may not recognise their own home- avoid confronting them, face them, gently lead them to a light room say something like “tell me about your Mum, she was a good cook wasn’t she? the smell of her cakes….that way you are not upsetting them, but reminding them of good memories & avoiding contradicting them.
- Sleep – If the person who has dementia isn’t sleeping well at night, try & get them to sit by a bright window or in the garden in the early morning. Early morning light may help their natural sleep rhythms. Short naps in the day are ok but try & prevent them from sleeping all day. Doze when they doze to give yourself rest – chores can wait, you need rest.
- Eating & Drinking – Try keeping up your fluids with sips of warm water regularly throughout the day, if your loved one is reluctant to drink, let them mirror what you do, you could say “Lets have a cup of tea/coffee together”
- Reducing stress and anxiety –While it is important to understand the latest guidance from the government, just do this at a set time of the day – there is so much “noise” on social media and the TV – it can become overwhelming
- Professional carers visiting –At the moment carers are classed as key workers, they should be issued with the appropriate protective clothing. Please make sure they wash their hands as they come into your home.
- Staying connected with others –A great way to see your family and friends and stay connected is via the internet. If you can download Zoom onto your computer this link will show you how: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206618765-Zoom-Video-Tutorials
If you have time, and have an email connection with other members of the family or friends ask them to send an electronic photo of themselves with the person you are caring for and to write the name of the people in the photo, the date and why it was an important time
I need to get food & medical supplies
Supermarkets will prioritise you, ask your family/friends to arrange an online delivery, speak to your local pharmacy
Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline: 0800 888 6678
Alzheimer’s Society Helpline0300 222 11 22
For more tips, advice and support read Finding the Light in Dementia, a Guide for Families, Friends and Caregivers