The COVID-19 pandemic arrived in America several weeks ago, and since then has wreaked havoc across the country. No population has been hit harder than senior citizens, so those who have remained uninfected have had to be hypervigilant about sanitation and social distancing measures. But not all seniors have the luxury of being able to provide care for themselves and are dependent upon either family or long-term care facilities for assistance with activities of daily living and healthcare. This need is especially true for those seniors who have Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
This need places the responsibility of COVID-19 prevention on their caretakers, which can be quite a juggling act for those taking care of their aging parent, spouse, or loved one. Anyone unfortunate enough to have a disease that impairs their memory and mental functioning can have difficulty grasping concepts like the virus and its implications, as well as remembering to follow proper prevention protocols. They may cough in someone’s face or touch things they shouldn’t, requiring lots of assistance during times like these.
Because of this, those who care for seniors with Dementia and Alzheimer’s must be prepared during this pandemic. We have never dealt with anything like this before, and it’s a complex and constantly changing situation. As we’ve learned from watching the news, when it comes to COVID-19, overpreparation is not the problem. Sanitation is the most critical place to start. Dementia patients can forget to wash their hands, so the recommendation is that you remind them or set up a structure to make sure it’s getting done. A chart or sign can be helpful.
It can also help if you show them by doing it with them so you can ensure they’re doing it thoroughly and for long enough. If you do this often, it may encourage them to remember and start doing it themselves.
If their dementia is severe, don’t worry about this and continue to help them as needed. Ensuring continuity of care is another important factor also, as it may be much more challenging to get help during these times.
Adult day-care centers are shut down for obvious reasons, and friends or family who may have been willing to help before COVID-19 may now be hesitant about helping, either because they don’t want to get the virus or don’t want to be the one to give it to someone else. For most people, it’s a combination of the two factors. Planning well in advance is very helpful here. Start by calling and talking with the people you usually depend on and discussing it with them before you need them. Make sure they’re okay with the idea and know you may call upon them. This way, when the time comes, you know who you can count on.
Finally, you need to focus on self-care. The most likely vector of infection for your loved one is you and your family. Self-care will serve both them and you by keeping you in the best shape possible to care for them. Make sure you are getting plenty of rest, and if you’re not, get some help. Practice social distancing and do your best not to go out unless it is necessary. Use video calling services to stay in touch with family and friends, so your mental health remains intact, and you can stay connected.
We’re beginning to see the loosening of some of the orders that were put in place two months ago. But those in the highest risk group would be wise to take their time and see how everything’s going first before just resuming normal functioning. Experts are saying the virus won’t exactly go away and is likely to have a second wave of many infections again in the fall. Even scarier, this would align with the flu season. So, there’s no telling how long these “temporary” adjustments will last, or how much they’ll become part of our new daily routine going forward. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to get better at this whole thing. COVID-19 preparation may become an annual ritual.
Marcel Gemme has dedicated his life to helping others find help. Through his journalism, community outreach, and website, ECDOL.org, he helps people find solutions for long-term senior care. Excellent Care, Decency, and Optimal Living are what he aims to bring to individuals looking for care options for themselves or their aging loved ones.