A dementia diagnosis in itself doesn’t appear to increase the risk of COVID-19, but dementia-related behaviors can put someone at risk for contracting the coronavirus. For example, someone with memory issues often forgets to follow precautions for protecting against diseases, such as washing hands and social distancing. Many family caregivers feel a huge sense of responsibility right now to protect their loved ones with dementia from harm, while also balancing work and childcare responsibilities.
Caregiving Tips from the CDC
How can you best help your loved one with dementia during the pandemic? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have released tips for caregivers helping loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Recommendations include:
- Access Telemedicine: When a person has dementia, increased symptoms of confusion could be an early indication of physical illness. If you see a sudden change in physical or mental status, then reach out to the doctor through telemedicine before visiting in person. If the patient has a high fever or difficulty breathing, then you should go to the emergency room right away.
- Provide Hygiene Reminders: It can be hard for people with dementia to remember important hygienic practices. Demonstrate proper handwashing, then place visual reminders near the sink in the bathroom. Caregivers can also offer verbal cues to remind the person to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap. A quick alternative is to have bottles of hand sanitizer on hand if the person has limited mobility and can’t get to the sink easily.
- Stock up on Prescriptions: If you make regular trips to the pharmacy, ask your doctor and health insurer about options for obtaining larger quantities of medication so you can visit the pharmacy less frequently. Alternatively, most prescription insurance coverage includes a mail order option.
- Consider Social Programs: Your local adult day care and senior center programs might be closed during the pandemic, but some programs have re-opened with comprehensive infection-control protocols in place. There is no one right answer, but consider whether staying at home or going out for socialization would be most beneficial for your loved one and for you as their caregiver.
- Create a Caregiving Back-Up Plan: If you develop symptoms, you will likely need to quarantine. Create a back-up plan so a friend, family member, or neighbor can assist your loved one if you are unable to act as their caregiver for a period of time. You can also contract with a local home care agency or memory care facility to have them provide respite care for your loved one on a short-term basis, until you are back on your feet.
At Windward Life Care, we offer personalized support for family caregivers of individuals living with dementia. Contact us to see how we can help you and your loved one maintain the best quality of life possible during the pandemic.