LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)– While the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health of millions in this country and around the world, it presents unique challenges for more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
The Alzheimer’s Association says that public health strategies aimed at limiting contact with others is nearly impossible for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias who rely on family caregivers and others to live their daily lives.
Because of this, the association wants to help families take the necessary measures to prepare for and cope with these extraordinary circumstances.
They’ve provided a few recommendations to keep in mind when caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s during this time:
Help people living with Alzheimer’s practice safe hygiene.
People with Alzheimer’s and other dementia may forget to wash their hands or follow other precautions to ensure safe hygiene. Caregivers are encouraged to be extra vigilant in helping individuals practice safe hygiene.
- Consider placing signs in the bathroom and elsewhere to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds.
- Demonstrate thorough hand-washing.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be a quick alternative to hand-washing if the person with dementia cannot get to a sink or wash his/her hands easily.
Be Cautious with Outside Caregivers and Guests.
The majority of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are over age 65, putting them at the highest risk for complications from COVID-19. This is especially true if a person with dementia has other chronic conditions of the heart and lungs or diabetes.
It’s critical that family caregivers carefully monitor who is coming into the home and to ensure all who enter are healthy. Be proactive in asking outside caregivers and guests about their current health status and make sure they are not experiencing any early or recent symptoms of illness.
Monitor Sudden or Sustained Changes in Behavior.
People living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias may not be able to communicate if they are feeling bad and showing early symptoms of illness.
It is important that caregivers monitor family members closely and respond quickly to any signs of distress, discomfort, or increased confusion. These signs do not necessarily indicate a serious condition like COVID-19, but it’s important that caregivers be diligent in investigating what is causing any sudden or sustained change in behavior. Even when people living with Alzheimer’s cannot communicate verbally, their actions may be sending a message.
Pay attention to flu or pneumonia-like symptoms and report them to a medical professional immediately.
Anticipate and prepare that current care and support options may change.
As public health containment strategies for COVID-19 escalate during the next several weeks, it is important for families to anticipate that less help and support may be available. For example, many adult day care programs are shutting down temporarily during the crisis and home health services may also become less available. It is also important to discuss alternative plans for care management if the primary caregiver should become sick.
It’s important for families to anticipate these changes and make plans for filling gaps in caregiving. This may require asking family members and friends to help with additional caregiving responsibilities or seeking previously untapped resources for additional help.
Many primary caregivers are not good about asking for help even as care responsibilities escalate. It’s important for family members and friends to be proactive during the current crisis in asking caregivers how they can help.
Utilize the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline.
The Alzheimer’s Association’s Helpline is staffed around the clock by master-level clinicians. They provide support for caregivers as they navigate this crisis, whether that’s by providing advice, guidance or being a listening ear.
For more information, visit alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.