Caregivers of Seniors with Dementia: How to protect your loved ones during COVID-19
With COVID-19, many of us, especially our seniors, are encouraged to stay in.
Due to their age, seniors are more likely to develop health complications from the virus. For some, they can understand the severity of the situation quickly, and accept that they must remain at home to stay safe.
However, for seniors with dementia, they may not be able to comprehend the danger posed by COVID-19. This ‘new normal’ situation may be very disorienting for them, especially if they can’t go out for their daily walks, or spend time at day centres. More people working from home can even be discomforting for them.
This disruption to their routine can lead to anxiety and confusion. Caring for people with dementia can be tricky, and we may not have an adequate care plan for our elderly with dementia.
For those who are caregivers for seniors with dementia, how can you best help our seniors living with dementia tide over these confusing times?
1. Share with them on what COVID-19 is all about
Explain COVID-19 in the simplest of ways by using visual aids such as posters with informative pictures, or even videos in a language they are familiar with.
Do not provide too much information. Ask questions, and take the time to listen to their concerns.
Reassure them that you are there to support them.
2. Guide them into a new normal
Help them create new routines by engaging them in other activities at home. We have included some caregiver activities for seniors in our Resources section for you to do with your loved one! These activities can help to distract them from all the changes, and keep their mind stimulated.
Write out a new schedule on a whiteboard. This can help you to plan the day better, and help your loved ones keep track of the new routine more quickly.
3. Create a clean and well ventilated environment for them
As they get in tune with the new normal, ensure that your home is safe by cleaning regularly. Spray disinfectant on commonly used surfaces such as doorknobs and light switches and wipe them down with a cloth daily.
Increased ventilation within your home can reduce the chances of COVID-19 infection. Open your windows and turn on the fan to promote good fresh air circulation.
4. Have a backup plan
What will happen if you, or any other caregiver at home, falls sick or needs to be away for an extended period of time?
If your answer right now is: “I don’t know”, it is time to think of a plan to prevent any last-minute scrambling for emergency or costly solutions.
Here is a checklist to help you get started!
5. Check in on them
As people living with dementia may not be able to articulate their feelings, you need to observe them well. Reassure them often, and chat with them about how they feel about the current situation.
They may also find it difficult to share any discomforts, and may forget to take care of their own hygiene and health.
It is important to monitor them closely for any COVID-19 symptoms, take their temperatures twice a day, and remind them to wash their hands regularly, even while they are confined at home.
6. Seek help from other organisations
Taking care of elderly with dementia is a 24/7 affair; and the ‘new normal’ may make it more challenging for you and your family.
In times of need, whether it is physical support or emotional support, do not be afraid to reach out to your loved ones and neighbours for help!
There are many organisations and services available out there who can lend you support. The Alzheimer’s Disease Association is an excellent place to learn more about how to better care for seniors living with dementia, especially during this period.
You can also apply for SPOC-19 to better support yourself and your senior. With SPOC-19, the public and ground enforcement authorities will be able to recognise that your senior has dementia, and can offer appropriate assistance for them.
Hang in there, and remember that you are not alone during this period!
Links to Resources
NTUC Health Go Respite
NTUC Health Home Care
NTUC Health Senior Day Care
Alzheimer’s Disease Association
Alzheimer’s Society – Caregiver resources for seniors
Gov.sg COVID-19 Resources