The coronavirus pandemic has created uncertainty for everybody across the world.
However, for dementia sufferers and their loved ones it is especially worrying.
After being instructed by the Government in late March to stay at home, the circumstances we find ourselves in remain clouded in doubt.
It is reasonable to expect the immediate future to be challenging and, with that mind, we will discuss in this post some of the precautions that can be taken to protect those with dementia and others close to them.
What is Covid-19? And are people with dementia at risk?
The virus responsible for causing Covid-19, which is a disease that primarily affects an individual’s lungs and airways, can be identified by the following symptoms:
- A dry cough
- Loss of taste and smell
They are usually mild, and begin gradually.
Some people, however, are asymptomatic.
Those that are vulnerable, or immunocompromised, are more at risk of contracting the virus and subsequently being hospitalised if the symptoms develop.
From existing data, these groups include the elderly, those with long-term underlying health conditions and those that have weakened immune systems.
The latest advice from Government states that those who are more vulnerable, such as the over 70s and those with specific underlying health conditions, are to remain at home and self-isolate.
While this list of conditions does not include dementia, and having dementia alone does not necessarily put you at any higher risk, it is not uncommon for those with the condition to fall into some of the above categories.
Additionally, dementia can leave people mentally vulnerable – another reason to be vigilant.
In this instance, it is advisable to follow the government’s guidance to help protect those with dementia.
What precautions can you take?
Wash your hands
It may be difficult to explain what is happening to a person with dementia, and why they need to wash their hands more frequently.
Putting signs around the home, particularly next to a sink, can be a useful reminder that explains that there is a virus outbreak and they need to wash their hands more.
Staying two metres apart
Encouraging and reminding those with dementia to keep a distance from people can also be challenging.
If you are out shopping with them, and they see someone they recognise, it can be hard to explain why they shouldn’t approach them.
To help avoid these encounters, try to go shopping at a quieter time when fewer people will be around.
Or alternatively, try to ask around to see if a family member, friend, or community helper can collect shopping for them.
Many people with dementia will regularly visit their GP for check-ups or to receive prescriptions.
Explaining why they can’t now visit can be challenging.
Often, collecting medication is an integral part of their routine which is why assuring them that they can still get theirs is key.
Although many GP surgeries are now closed as a direct result of the virus outbreak, doctors will still make themselves available over the phone or send prescriptions directly to a pharmacy.
From there, either through a pharmacy scheme or NHS volunteers, someone will be able to deliver the prescription straight to their door without having to make contact.
Another precaution that can be taken to help protect those with dementia is physical distancing.
Although lockdown restrictions are slowly being eased, it is still important for them to distance for their own wellbeing.
It can be difficult having to remind them why they can’t see their loved ones, which is why keeping contact using a phone, writing letters, sending photos or video calling is so important.
Having dementia takes a toll on individuals, both physically and mentally, something that is likely to be compounded by the current crisis.
As always, being kind, compassionate and patient with dementia sufferers during this time has never been so important.
If you are struggling during this time, remember that you are not alone and there are people you can reach out to.
If you have any concerns about caring for someone with dementia during the Covid-19 pandemic, there is assistance and support available.
One example is the Dementia UK email service at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, you can call 0800 888 6678 to speak to dementia specialist admiral nurses.