Dementia and COVID-19: Tips for Caregivers
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a significant strain on all of us. Between mandated lockdowns, social distancing orders, and the need to wear a mask so we can stay safe, our lives do not look the same as they did at the beginning of 2020. For those who care for somebody with dementia, the challenges are incredible. While there is no evidence showing that dementia increases the risk of COVID-19, dementia-related behaviors, increased age, and common health conditions that accompany dementia may increase a person’s infection risk.
If you are caregiving for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s in your home, you need to follow the guidelines put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and consider the following:
- Increased confusion is often the first sign that a person has contracted any kind of illness. If a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s shows a rapid increase in confusion levels, seek medical assistance. This may or may not be a natural progression of their dementia.
- Those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s may need extra written reminders to remind them to practice good hygiene from one day to the next. You should consider placing signs in the bathroom or kitchen, reminding a person to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds. You can also leave alcohol-based hand sanitizers in various locations around the house.
- Ask your pharmacist to increase the number of days for each prescription to reduce the number of trips you need to take to the pharmacy.
- If your loved one receives in-home care from a person who comes in each day, make sure you ask the employer of the caretaker about their COVID-19 protocols. Any person coming into your home should be working to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In Residential Care
The CDC has provided extensive guidelines for infection prevention and control inside of nursing homes. All nursing home facilities must follow these guidelines. You should:
- Ask the facility managers about their COVID-19 protocols.
- Do not visit your family members in a facility if you have any signs and symptoms of illness.
- If visitation is not allowed, ask the facility about other ways to stay in contact, including phone calls, video chats, or email.
Importance of Self-Care
As a caregiver, you have to take care of yourself as well. Dealing with somebody who has dementia, day in and day out, can be incredibly difficult. You love your family member, but caregiver burnout can lead to feelings of resentment and anger towards a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Ask another close family member or trusted in-home care worker if they can take care of your loved one for a little while so you can go do something on your own. Yes, there are limited options of what you can do while the pandemic is ongoing, but simply getting some fresh air or taking a good socially distant walk with friends can help your mindset.
Burnt out caregivers are not going to help anybody. Care for yourself, so you can care for your loved one.
Protecting Against Abuse
If you know somebody with dementia or Alzheimer’s and you suspect that they have been the victim of abuse, you may need to seek law enforcement assistance immediately. This is important whether the person of concern is receiving in-home care or if they are being cared for in an assisted living facility. You may need to seek assistance from an elder abuse attorney if you suspect that abuse has occurred.