COVID-19 has left many Canadians living with dementia, caregivers, and their families facing a new set of challenges. The pandemic has affected many aspects of how someone living with Alzheimer’s or other related dementias interacts with others, spends their time, and receives care. For caregivers, the pandemic has made an already strenuous job even harder.
Dr. Morris Freedman, Behavioural Neurologist at Baycrest, has provided some tips for those living with Alzheimer’s disease, and those who care for them, on how to navigate the pandemic.
- People with dementia may forget to wash their hands or take other precautions. Thus, caregivers should consider placing signs in the bathroom and other parts of the home as a reminder to wash hands with soap for 20 seconds.
- There should a backup plan for someone to look after the person with Alzheimer’s disease if the caregiver becomes ill.
- If health care professionals come to the home to provide services for people with Alzheimer’s disease:
- Ensure that they are following a protocol to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a mask and a face shield
- If possible, check the healthcare professionals temperature before they enter the home of the person with Alzheimer’s disease
- Screen the health healthcare professional with questions such as check whether they have any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, travelled outside the country in the last 2 weeks, or have been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19
- Ensure that the healthcare professional Ensure that the health care professional washes their hands upon arrival and regularly throughout their time in your home.
- Ensure that the person with Alzheimer’s disease avoids close contact with people who are sick.
- Try to ensure that the person with Alzheimer’s disease avoids touching his/her eyes, nose and mouth
- Plan a regular routine for the person with Alzheimer’s disease.
- The caregiver should keep the person with Alzheimer’s disease engaged with activities he/she enjoys (eg listening to music, dancing)
- If the person with Alzheimer’s disease experience stress or becomes agitated, the caregiver should stay calm and provide reassurance. The caregiver should also ensure that the person’s needs are being met, that all medication has been taken, and that he/she is not in any pain or discomfort
- The person with Alzheimer’s disease should try to be:
- Physically active – by doing exercises, indoors or out
- Mentally active – by trying activities online or offline
- Socially active – by staying connected to those close to him/her
- For physical exercise, the caregiver should try to make social distancing easier by:
- Considering walks early in the morning when there are fewer people are around
- Choosing quieter routes to walk
- The caregiver should avoid criticism of any errors and offer encouragement and praise instead.
- The caregiver should be alert any signs that there are medical problems that could contribute to worsening of dementia. These could include any of:
- Sudden confusion
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent urination
- Balance problems
- If the caregiver gets sick then this will negatively impact the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore for the protection of the caregiver, he/she should ask the family doctor or pharmacist to prescribe medications for people with Alzheimer’s disease to cover a greater number of days to reduce caregiver trips to pharmacy.
Dr. Morris Freedman
HEAD, DIVISION OF NEUROLOGY, BAYCREST
SCIENTIST, ROTMAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE, BAYCREST
PROFESSOR, FACULTY OF MEDICINE (NEUROLOGY), UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
MEDICAL DIRECTOR, COGNITION & BEHAVIOUR, BAYCREST