How to support people living with dementia through the coronavirus crisis

Apr 26, 2020
It's important to stay in touch with the people who matter to you. Source: Getty.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues, it’s taking a particularly harsh toll on older people with dementia. As people are told to stay home in order to stop the spread of the virus, some people living with dementia are struggling with the sudden changes in routine.

“There is confusion in the community and new rules announced daily to keep pace with this rapidly evolving situation,” Dementia Australia chief executive officer Maree McCabe says. “For people living with dementia, this can create even more uncertainty.”

The good news is, there are things you can do to help. Dementia Australia has shared their top tips on how best to support someone living with dementia through the coronavirus pandemic.

For primary carers

During times of uncertainty, it’s really important to keep their routine the same, or as similar as possible to maintain structure in their day, and to stay connected as much as possible. Dementia Australia suggests people with dementia could benefit from going for walks, spending time in the garden, calling a friend or family member, listening to music, reading or watching a television show or movie. It can also be helpful to write out an activity care plan if different people are sharing caring responsibilities.

“If you’re required to self-isolate but the person you care for is not living with you, there are some things you can do to continue to support them,” the organisation said, adding staying in touch via phone, Facetime or Skype can be a good way to show the person living with dementia that you care.

For family, friends or neighbours

If you know someone living with dementia, you may be able to assist with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping or collecting medications. If you’re visiting, remember to practice good hand hygiene and social distancing. Meanwhile, many aged care facilities across the country have gone into lockdown or restricted visitors in response to coronavirus, but just because you can’t visit doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected.

“If you can’t visit the person, then stay in contact by phone, post, email, FaceTime or Skype,” the organisation said. “Let the person know that you’re thinking of them and encourage others to do so as well.”

If your loved one with dementia isn’t able to engage in phone calls, ask staff if they can provide you with regular updates.

Tips to pass time in self-isolation

To help your loved ones pass the time at home, the team at Dementia Australia contributed a list of creative activities, as staying as active as possible is important for people with dementia. When caring for someone, try instructing them through some gentle exercises either in a chair or around the house. Activities such as reading books and magazines, doing jigsaws, listening to music, knitting, watching TV and listening to the radio may also help curb boredom.

“Consider sensory experiences such as hand, neck and foot massages, hair brushing, smelling flowers from your garden, or a rummage box that contains things that the person has been interested in,” the organisation added.

For something a little bit different, why not consider a virtual tour? Your loved one can take a tour through museums and galleries from the comfort and safety of their own home.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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