The majority of the 850,000 people with dementia in the UK are over 65 and are often living with other long-term health conditions. This puts them at an increased risk of developing severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19, but there are some steps we can be taking to help reduce their exposure to the risk as much as possible.
Boris Johnson has urged everyone to avoid unnecessary social contact, to work from home where possible and to stay away from pubs, restaurants and theatres. People in at-risk groups will have been strongly urged to stay at home for 12 weeks as the Prime Minister announced unprecedented peacetime measures.
Although this instruction is something we understand, these steps can be much harder to understand and follow for a person living with Alzheimer’s and dementia and also for their loved ones and caregivers.
If you are currently caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and dementia, here are some things you can do to help:
People living with dementia may need extra reminders and support to remember important hygienic practices from one day to the next. As hand hygiene is of particular importance now, extra help can ensure that everything that is touched is cleaned regularly with an antibacterial cleaner. For example, door handles, taps, stair ramps and TV remotes or anything that is used day to day.
Make sure to explain the process of handwashing, as it may seem obvious to you but might not be to them. Demonstrate thorough hand-washing practices following the 20-second rule and placing signs or handwritten notes on how to do this could be useful as a gentle reminder.
Regularly use alcohol-based hand sanitizer for a quick alternative to hand washing if the person with dementia has trouble getting to and from a sink regularly. Please ensure the hand sanitizer is at least 60% alcohol to successfully kill all bacteria.
Lend a helping hand
If you know someone who is self-isolating, you can offer to help with groceries or picking up medication from the pharmacy. This also goes for anybody who knows of someone caring, or any loved ones of someone with dementia, so they can limit their risk as much as possible by not going to the shops. We know these areas are very crowded and as much help as possible will help lower the risk!
Living in these unpredictable times is hard enough, but for someone with dementia, this can be an extremely lonely and confusing time beyond what we can comprehend.
Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia already have difficulty connecting with people and feel isolated- but coronavirus socially isolates them even more. Now is the time to be keeping in touch and reassuring patients more than ever through regular communication, even if you are needing to self-isolate.
You can keep in regular phone contact and can write important numbers and instructions prominently and leave copies around the house in places they are guaranteed to see them. For example, on a bathroom mirror, the fridge, a window, on the door, etc.
It might also help to get creative with ways you can communicate as you can even set up regular video chat for people directly, or if you can’t visit, find out if this is something that caregivers can help you to do daily.
If you have any other useful tips through your experience of caring for someone with dementia during this pandemic, please share and let us know so we can all help support each other during this time of crisis.
Posted 24th March 2020