Caring for people with dementia during Coronavirus
There is a lot of helpful advice on websites and in the news. Older people and people in later stages of dementia may have weakened immune systems. In this article, one of our Carer Ambassadors who is a carer for two people with dementia, offers guidance on how to adapt this advice to your caring.
Keeping free from infection
Because some people living with dementia may have a sensitivity to water, here are some tips to help keep them free from infection:
- While the NHS recommends that persons wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing, it may be difficult to achieve this with a person living with a dementia. You may be able to encourage more frequent and/or longer hand washing by singing two choruses of “Happy Birthday. Or other short songs that make sense.
- Use a soothing tone and humour to encourage washing. You may need to explain what to do slowly and step by step and do it yourself to demonstrate, or use hand-on hand.
- Some people with dementia are no longer able to sequence (i.e., they can’t anticipate what step is coming next.). You may want to say, “First, let’s wet our hands under the water.” When that is done, “Then we will use the soap dispenser to squeeze out some soap into your hands.” Then, “Rub your hands together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands…. Lather between your fingers…. Lather under your nails.”
- Use a fragranced soap such as lavender to improve the sensory experience for the person you care for or maybe coal tar will bring back memories. Soap dispensers may be easier and safer to use than bars of soap for a person with dementia but use whichever your person prefers. Keep bars of soap free of water, so they can dry between washings. If the soap is wet, simply rinse it off before lathering.
- Make sure the room temperature and water temperature are comfortable when washing.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, according to the NHS.
- Make supplies easy to access, such as tissues, wipes and hand sanitizers, near the locations where your person spends most of their time.
- Use hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes for fast fixes around the home.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (e.g. remote controls, chair arms, door handles, taps)
The Alzheimer’s Society page of advice: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/coronavirus-covid-19
Spending more time together
If day care opportunities and respite are postponed due to an outbreak or the person you care for isn’t feeling well enough to attend, have activities on hand to help pass the time. For example, word puzzles and games, picture albums, music to listen to, special movies to watch, and small tasks to engage in such as folding towels or putting socks together. If friends want to help, ask them to leave new activities at your door or email you quizzes and links.
Introduce chair-based exercise and standing up if you cannot get outside.
You do not have to spend long periods of time occupying the person you care for. Dementia is tiring. Short periods of quality time followed by putting the TV or music on or a book to flick through is fine. You will need breaks!
If the person you care for follows you a lot, it may be a sign that they are feeling insecure. Sticking to routines for getting up, meals and going to bed will help. Add in set times for TV/short activities together to establish new routines for self-isolation. This will help you punctuate the day.
If you are reading or doing a crossword, read bits aloud every now and then. This may help the person you care for be reassured.
Ask friends and family to ring or contact you by social media more often than they usually would. This may help you feel less isolated and have someone to talk to if things get tough.
Check that your contacts and contingency plan is still going to work should you be taken ill.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone, but especially for people living in care homes, their families and the care home staff. To offer support, Dementia UK have put together some common questions and answers. We hope this information will help you, along with the care home, to support the person you love and care for. https://www.dementiauk.org/care-homes-and-the-coronavirus-outbreak/
New guidance has been developed by the Ideal Programme led by the University of Exeter Medical School, for carers of people with dementia. Carers are increasingly facing increased isolation, lack of respite opportunities and reduced services as a result of COVID-19. Many carers are finding it difficult to explain the current restrictions and enable the person with dementia to remain safe, and are deeply worried about the safety and well-being of their relatives.
The Ideal Project have produced a leaflet which gives practical and self-help tips with five key messages about how people living with dementia can stay well during the coronavirus outbreak, visit: http://www.idealproject.org.uk/covid/
Listen to these Dementia Diaries about how people living with dementia are coping during the Covid-19 lockdown and pick up some useful tips. https://dementiadiaries.org/tag/coronavirus
TIDE (Together in Dementia Everyday) is a website dedicated to promoting the interests of carers of people living with dementia. Current and former carers of all backgrounds and cultures are welcome to share their experiences and use the links for advice and helpful activities: some to inform and some just for fun! https://www.tide.uk.net/about
Useful helplines and webchats
Dementia UK: tel: 0800 888 6678 email: firstname.lastname@example.org web: https://www.dementiauk.org/
Alzheimer’s Society helpline: tel: 0300 222 11 22 Talking Point (online community) web: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-talking-point-our-online-community
Rare Dementias Support: email: email@example.com web: https://www.raredementiasupport.org/
Live better with Dementia (used to be Unforgettable): https://dementia.livebetterwith.com/blogs/advice/coronavirus-and-dementia-care-information-and-advice
Other things to consider
• Make sure you and the person you are caring for are drinking enough liquids and eating good food to help your immune system.
• Ask your GP if you can have larger prescriptions and set up home delivery to cut down the number of times you need to go to the chemist
• Say ‘yes’ to any offers of help. Many communities are offering services.
• Avoid social activities, which includes having family or friends in the house.
If you or the person you care for develops a cough, a temperature, or has difficulty breathing, phone 111.
Tell them that you are a carer/the person has a dementia.
Follow their advice.