Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia is hard enough during normal times.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect communities around the U.S., though, it’s not surprising that family caregivers are anxious, unnerved and confused.
If you’re caring for a family member with dementia during this global health crisis, there are ways to minimize stress, care for your family and care for yourself, too.
A recent article by Liz Seegert on myavenue.com states that dementia itself does not increase the risk of COVID-19; however, dementia-related behaviors may increase risk.
People with dementia may forget to wash their hands or take other precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to avoid contracting the virus. And if they do fall ill, cognitive impairment may worsen.
One of the first signs of illness for people who have dementia is a sudden onset of increasing confusion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. If you notice this in your loved one, contact your health care provider right away.
One of the most important things you can do as a caregiver is to remain calm.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation advises caregivers not to raise the alarm about the virus to the person you care for. Limit what you say about it and try not to watch the news if they’re in the room.
It takes a lot more attention and responsibility from family caregivers to make sure all of the home’s occupants are safely cohabiting, according to Lisa Winstel, chief operating officer of the Caregiver Action Network.
If an older adult lives with you, she says, “this is probably a really good time to review your household policies about policing things that are left around, like small items that could be mistaken for candy.”
Safety issues warrant a second look.
You can help reduce fall risk by ensuring that things, like books, are not left on the floor. If your loved one wanders, be sure to remind others not to leave the door unlocked. Keep medications in a locked drawer or cabinet to ensure no unsupervised access.
People living with dementia may need extra or written reminders and support to conduct important hygienic practices from one day to the next, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
That advisory group suggests placing signs in the bathroom and elsewhere to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds. You can help by demonstrating thorough hand-washing.
Whether they live with you or on their own, routine is also very important for everyone involved, Winstel says. “Anything you can do to just keep the routine as consistent as possible, minimizing disruptions as much as possible, will help,” she notes.