Dementia Care During COVID-19

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Welcome to The Senior Circle, where we hope to inspire and help others by providing valuable, relevant information related to caring for an elderly loved one. Hi. My name is Dawn Neely and I’ll be your host. Thank you for joining us.

If you’re caring for a person with dementia symptoms, such as memory loss, inability to function, agitation, or aggression, you know the challenges that come along with it and how difficult it can be. Our world has been shaken by this new crisis that we’re all experiencing with the COVID-19 quarantine. To say that it has made things more difficult for caregivers is a tremendous understatement. While before this crisis, we could consider outings or visits that could help our loved one throughout the day, we’re limited in what we can do.

What I’d like to do is share some tips for caregivers who are in isolation with a person with dementia, some things that hopefully will help you now and also on a daily basis. At it’s best, the task of caregiving for someone with dementia has been referred to as the 36 hour day, and that’s when we can at least count on support from family, friends, different day programs that are available. The stress, however, at this point, with the restrictions in place due to COVID-19 is monumentally higher. I’m not an expert, I don’t have a PhD in psychology, neuroscience or really anything for that matter, but I do have 12 years of experience working with some amazing people, caregivers and professionals, that have shared important, useful information.

One of the most important things is to keep a schedule. I believe that daily routines are key for those suffering from dementia. Even though our schedules can get out of whack when we don’t have appointments and places to be, it’s important to get up at the same time, follow a morning hygiene routine, maintain meal schedules, and also nighttime rituals. This will provide that structured environment that really helps your loved one feel safe.

Another thing is to avoid lengthy napping. Taking a long nap during the day can throw your loved one’s biological clock off and make it very difficult for them to sleep at night. As tempting as it is to let them sleep for more than 15 or 20 minutes, it may cost you in the end.

Try to get some exercise into the daily routine. Activity and movement help with mood and are also believed to improve cognition. If you and your loved one are able to get outside, enjoy a short walk. Everything counts when it comes to movement. Try to make it fun. Work it into the schedule and make sure that it happens on a daily basis.

It’s important, especially now, to make sure that we’re eating nutritiously and maintaining our immune system. Preparing meals that are considered comfort foods for your loved one is a great idea, especially if they can get involved with the preparation. We have a client that loves to teach our caregiver how to cook her favorite meals. The caregiver takes care of the more difficult tasks, but our client directs and makes sure that it’s done properly. The familiar smells of our favorite foods can be tremendous memory aids, so this could spark some recall and you might get some great stories about old family traditions. Just try to make sure that those healthy meals are part of that daily schedule and their routine.

Finally, think of ways to remotely connect to your support network. Try to schedule daily video chats with friends and family, even if it’s for short periods. Most people with dementia will unfortunately have a short attention span, so they’ll benefit from briefer, more frequent contacts. It’s also very important for you as the caregiver to remain connected to your support network, so know your tribe. Connect with those that uplift you and care about you and your loved one. Let them know how you are doing.

This is a challenging time for everyone. We have uncertainty of what things will look like on the other side of this crisis. But follow your loved one’s lead on this one. Stay in the moment. Stay positive, both for them and for you. Stay connected with valuable resources out there like the Alzheimer’s Association, the Area Agency on Aging, and if there’s anything that we can help with, don’t hesitate to reach out. Be healthy and stay safe.

If you think your senior loved one could use some help at home and would like to download our Free Home Care Assessment Checklist, click on the following link:

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