COVID has completely changed our world, including how we support and provide care for our loved ones with dementia. As a caregiver, you may be feeling more stressed and overwhelmed. Your traditional support network, such as daybreak, home services and respite, may no longer be an option, and many of your regular activities and engagements may not be safe or even open.
To help dementia caregivers through this difficult time, Eddy Senior Living has put together the following guide with COVID-19 Basics, Daily Caregiving Tips, Engagement Opportunities, Health Tips for Both Caregivers and those with Dementia, and Additional Support.
First and foremost, caregivers need to explain the virus to their loved one and implement a few standards to limit the risk of infection.
•Explain the Virus
When informing your loved one about the virus, keep your explanation simple. For example, “There is a virus that is making people very sick.” You will need to repeat yourself and remind your loved one frequently.
• Wear Masks
Caregivers must wear a mask at all times, as you are your loved one’s only source of transmission. If your loved one refuses or is unable to wear a mask, do not attempt to take them out in public.
• Practice Good Hygiene
Use reminders and cues, such as signs in the bathroom and kitchen, to prompt your loved one to wash their hands. In some instances, hand sanitizer may be easier for frequent clean ups.
Daily Caregiving Tips
One of the most important things you can do to reduce the stress both on you and the person with dementia is to establish and maintain a routine.
• Get Enough Sleep
Sleep patterns may change, but it’s still important to get your rest. Naps are a great way to accomplish this, for both you and your loved one.
• Get Outside
Even as the temperatures begin to drop here in the Albany Capital Region, it’s still important to get your daily dose of fresh air and vitamin D. Make time for a walk or sit in the sun.
• Limit COVID Talk
It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the daily news reports about COVID, but it can cause depression and stress. Limit exposure to the news, newspapers and social media.
While many of your regular activities may no longer be an option, there are still plenty of things you can do to keep your loved one engaged.
•TV is OK
Watching television can provide an important social context for caregivers and loved ones with dementia, and watching old TV programs and movies can be a great way to reminisce.
• Bring Out the Board Games
If playing the game as it was meant to be played is too challenging, break the rules! You can use the game pieces to sort, or make up a new game all your own.
• Get Creative
Painting, drawing and coloring are relaxing activities, and some dementia patients are even able to express themselves and evoke memories through art.
• Let the Music Play
You may not be able to go see the symphony, but musicians from nearly every genre of music are streaming concerts online, some are even free.
• Stay Connected with Technology
From free video communication tools, like Zoom and Skype, to smartphone apps like Facetime, there are so many ways to connect with family and friends face-to-face.
Health Tips for Caregivers
Like they tell you on board an airplane, “Secure your own oxygen mask before helping others.” Your loved one is counting on you to stay healthy, so your mental and physical well-being need to be a main focus.
• Prevent COVID Infection
Practice social distancing, wear a mask at all times, wash your hands frequently, and limit your exposure by taking advantage of store deliveries, eating in, or having food delivered whenever possible.
• Maintain You Physical Health
Don’t skip your doctor appointments, use telemed options, if available, and get a flu shot. Continue to eat healthy, get enough sleep and stick to your fitness routine.
• Protect Your Mental Health
While it’s important to reduce your contact with others, it’s equally important to stay connected. Don’t isolate yourself from friends and family.
• Have a Backup Plan
Make sure you have a backup plan in the event that you get sick. Decide who can become a caregiver in your absence, and write out all of your loved one’s information just in case.
Health Tips for Care Recipients
Managing your loved one’s health is an important part of caregiving, however, during COVID, you’ll want to take a few extra precautions.
• Keep All Doctor Appointments
Find out if telehealth visits are an option, and make sure your loved one gets a flu shot. If there is an emergency, go to the ER.
• Monitor for Changes
Look for any significant changes in your loved one’s mood, personality, behavior, abilities, ADLs or appetite and discuss your concerns with their health care provider.
• Continue Medications
If your loved one is refusing their medication, contact the healthcare provider to find out if the drug comes in another form, such as liquid or drops.
Being a caregiver for someone with dementia in “normal” times is challenging enough. Providing care during COVID can feel infinitely more stressful and overwhelming. Asking for help is not a failure, it’s about knowing your limits and wanting the best for your loved one.
Both the Marjorie Doyle Rockwell Center for Memory Care in Cohoes NY and Eddy Memory Care at Eddy Hawthorne Ridge in East Greenbush are currently accepting new residents. Both sites offer dining, medical and other therapy services, as well as indoor visitation, and all daily activity planning is operating as usual. In addition, we are following strict COVID protocols to protect our residents and staff.
• New residents must provide a negative COVID test with 7 days of admission and are quick-tested in the day of admission.
• All staff is COVID tested weekly.
• We strictly follow all CDC, NYS DOH and SPHP Infectious Disease Team guidelines and protocols.