Tips from the Alzheimer’s Association for Dementia Caregivers during Coronavirus (COVID-19)

By: Tiffany Cloud-Mann, M.Ed.

It’s great that there is an organization to turn to when a crisis like our current state occurs. The Alzheimer’s Association is the expert in the field of care and support, education and research when it comes to Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. I am going to paraphrase their tips for caregivers during COVID-19 below, for your information, but you can get these tips and much more at alz.org or 1-800-272-3900. 

First, let me say, that just having Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia does not increase someone’s risk for developing COVID-19. What does increase their risk is the symptoms and risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Let me explain. Alzheimer’s increases with age and COVID-19 affects those higher in age more than younger people. Secondly, people with Alzheimer’s may develop poor judgment and forget to wash their hands or take recommended precautions to prevent illness, therefore putting themselves at more risk. You may also see someone with dementia that develops COVID-19  experience exacerbated confusion, which can happen for those with cognitive impairment and illness. 

 

Tips for dementia caregivers at home

As I mentioned, people with dementia can experience increased confusion when they are experiencing illness. If you notice your loved one’s symptoms increase quickly, this might be a sign they aren’t feeling well and you should get them to their doctor. 

People living with dementia may need extra and/or written reminders and support to remember important hygienic practices from one day to the next. 

  • Consider placing signs in the bathroom and elsewhere to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds. You may need to offer reminders regularly, as with short-term memory loss, they may forget. 
  • Demonstrate thorough hand-washing.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be a quick alternative to hand-washing if the person with dementia cannot get to a sink or wash his/her hands easily. You may find some simple homemade hand sanitizer recipes online if you can’t find it in the stores. 

 

Ask your pharmacist or doctor about filling prescriptions for a greater number of days to reduce trips to the pharmacy. Think ahead and make alternative plans for the person with dementia, should adult daycare, respite, etc., be modified or canceled in response to COVID19. Think ahead and make alternative plans for care management if the primary caregiver should become sick. This is where companies like LifeLinks can step in to offer support. 

Tips for caregivers of individuals in assisted living

The CDC has provided guidance to facilities on infection control and prevention of COVID-19 in nursing homes. This guidance is for the health and safety of residents. Precautions may vary based on local situations. For more information, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/healthcare-facilities

Check with the facility regarding their procedures for managing COVID-19 risk. Ensure they have your emergency contact information and the information of another family member or friend as a backup. Do not visit your family member if you have any signs or symptoms of illness. Depending on the situation in your local area, facilities may limit or not allow visitors. This is to protect the residents, but it can be difficult if you are unable to see your family member. If visitation is not allowed, ask the facility how you can have contact with your family member. Options include telephone calls, video chats or even emails to check in. If your family member is unable to engage in calls or video chats, ask the facility how you can keep in touch with facility staff in order to get updates. 

Staying healthy

Pay attention to flu or pneumonia-like symptoms in yourself and others and report them to a medical professional immediately. Follow current guidance and instruction from the CDC regarding COVID-19. Tips to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy include: avoid close contact with people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Stay home when you are sick; work from home. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty. For more information on how to protect yourself, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- ncov/prepare/prevention.html. 

Introducing a Care Manager

As mentioned in these tips, hiring a Care Manager during a time like this can be both helpful in navigating this crisis and in the future. Care Managers can walk alongside caregivers in managing their loved one’s care and/or crises, step in if the caregiver is sick or not available, and create a plan for going forward. As with any crisis or traumatic event, there are usually issues and needs created after the event has ended. Call us today to discuss your concerns and if Care Management could be helpful for your situation.

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