Dealing with dementia can be challenging enough in day-to-day life without the threat of a pandemic looming over the world. However, dementia caregivers are uniquely positioned to understand how resilient and adaptable people can be, even in a crisis. There are steps you can take to minimize the stress a dementia patient is exposed to, and the language you use is also crucial. In this article, we’ll discuss methods for helping someone who’s dealing with dementia adjust to the new normal.
Dealing With Dementia Post-Pandemic
Between stay-at-home orders, news channels showing frightening scenes and figures and the very real fear of loss, 2020 and 2021 have been scary. Most people with dementia are considered to be in a high-risk group, so it’s extra important to give them support and love, as well as making sure they follow additional hygiene habits and maintain a consistent daily routine.
The following measures will help keep both you and the dementia patient, as well as other family members, safe from coronavirus and ease any worry or insecurity surrounding the pandemic.
COVID-19 and Dementia Patients
Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease cause mental confusion and other potentially frightening symptoms such as hallucinations, but they can also cause physical pain. Coronavirus affects the lungs worst of all the organs, and luckily dementia doesn’t increase the risk of contracting the virus.
Unfortunately, the outcomes for people with dementia are significantly worse than the rest of the population, so it’s extra important that dementia patients follow these guidelines regarding COVID-19:
- Wash hands regularly with soap for at least 20 seconds
- Wear face coverings in public areas, particularly crowded places
- Limit how many people from outside of your household you see, and avoid getting too close to strangers
- Where possible, keep doors and windows open for ventilation
Keep the Message Simple
There’s a good chance a family member who’s dealing with dementia will start asking questions about why so many changes seem to be taking place at once. Change can be very overwhelming for a dementia patient, so avoid piling too much information on them at once. They’re unlikely to remember lengthy explanations
Remain calm at all times, speak slowly, use a reassuring tone and be mindful of your body language, as dementia patients are often sensitive to visual cues and tone of voice. Even your facial expressions might be perceived as threatening, so make sure you’re as gentle and mild as possible.
Instead, keep the explanation as short as possible and divert attention away from the topic at hand to something the person with dementia enjoys. Focus on the positives if they bring the subject back around. For example, if they express displeasure at face masks, explain the many benefits of face coverings in public and point out that because everyone is wearing them, there’s no need to feel self conscious.
Avoid Too Much News TV
One thing that can make dealing with dementia significantly harder is watching too much news coverage. The nature of news TV means that for the most part, it’s all doom and gloom. Rolling coverage of daily deaths and pundits arguing over which politician is at fault isn’t constructive viewing for people with dementia.
While there’s a good chance a dementia patient won’t recall the exact events they viewed on-screen, they’ll remember how it felt. Lighthearted TV shows are best for people with dementia because they won’t bring up emotions that are difficult to process.
Follow a Daily Routine
No matter what’s going on in the world, following a consistent routine is essential for someone who’s dealing with dementia. In times of change, it’s even more important. Wake-up and sleep times set the body’s circadian rhythms, which govern hormone release and a variety of other bodily functions. Making sure a person with dementia goes to bed and wakes up at the same time helps give their system a boost. Regular meal times, exercise and daily activities also help maintain balance.
Make Meaningful Engagement a Priority
There are tons of ways to meaningfully engage a person with dementia. The more meaningful a dementia patient’s day is, the better they’ll feel and the easier they’ll find it to get to sleep. A dementia diagnosis can be disempowering, and as dementia progresses, the patient often feels an increasing sense of inadequacy. Daily tasks that bring a sense of pride can minimize troubling behavior and poor communication, reduce frustration and promote social skills and well-being.
Meaningful engagement helps a person who requires dementia care remember their inherent worth, engage the senses and feel emotionally connected to the world and other people. Doing something meaningful that brings a sense of pride or joy every day is one of the best ways to soothe someone with dementia. It also helps minimize challenging dementia behaviors such as verbal or physical aggression.
Triggering cherished memories is another great way to bring peace and calm to someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Examples of meaningful engagement include:
- Arts and crafts
- Doing laundry
- Watching a heartwarming movie or TV show
- Listening to podcasts
- Listening to soothing music
- Tending to the garden
Tips for Family Caregivers of People With Dementia
Taking care of your own needs is just as important as the care you take to protect your loved one’s feelings. It’s crucial you find ways to take care of yourself as well. Ways to reduce stress and take care of your well-being as a caregiver include:
- Joining a support group
- Practice self-care, such as getting a massage or having an at-home spa day
- Going for walks in nature
- Speaking to a trusted friend
- Seeking advice from the Alzheimer’s Association
- Calling the Family Caregiver Alliance
- Practicing meditation
- Taking an exercise class
By looking after your own needs, getting enough sleep and eating healthy, you put yourself in the best position to stay calm.