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COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Tips for supporting a person with dementia

If you have a family member living with dementia, now may feel like a worrying time. Social distancing measures may mean you’re unable to visit your loved one, or perhaps you’re caring for them at home and daily life has become more challenging than usual.

Priory Adult Care’s dementia coach Donna Hanlon, shares some valuable tips here for those who are supporting someone with dementia during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Keep up-to-date with government guidance on Coronavirus

We advise everyone to make themselves familiar with the government’s guidance on COVID-19 (Coronavirus), which includes those who are most at risk and what to do, information about washing hands more frequently, only going outside for food, health reasons or to work if you cannot work from home.

To help the person with dementia that you support to remember to wash their hands, you could put some reminders in key places around the home if they are living with you, such as above each sink or ask them to put these up in their house.

Look after your wellbeing

Looking after yourself and your own wellbeing is crucial when it comes to supporting someone with dementia, but you may find this has become more difficult in recent weeks. We no longer have the same access to our support networks of friends and family, so it can feel isolated. Make an effort to stay in touch with the people you care about, so you can check in on them and tell them how you are doing.

Exercising regularly is good for your physical and mental health and can help manage stress. Go for a walk if you can, get out into the garden, follow an online exercise class, or just try and incorporate a bit more physical activity into your day, if this is possible. Try to encourage the person you support to also take some gentle exercise daily too. For example, arm chair yoga.

While keeping informed about COVID-19 developments is important, you may want to consider limiting your news intake. If you or the person you care for is feeling overwhelmed, try limiting this to one or two updates a day.

Stick to a daily routine

Following a routine will help you feel more in control and make sure those things that need to get done are ticked off the list. It can also help the person you’re supporting know what to expect each day and feel less anxious. Keeping things simple will make them feel more manageable.

Try new activities

Encouraging the person you care for to try new things and having fun together can help reduce any feelings of isolation, anxiety or boredom. Alongside exercise, if you’re caring for a loved one at home, why not give one of these a try or come up with your own ideas:

  • Learning a new skill such as a new language or technology, or finding out more about the world we live in

  • Letter writing to loved ones

  • A cinema evening, complete with snacks

  • Cooking which can be relaxing and therapeutic

  • Asking family members to send small video clips of what they’re up to

  • Karaoke and singing

  • Gardening, both indoors and outside

There are also plenty of free online resources that mean you can try everything from creating a life story book to viewing the wonders of the world via Google Earth and building a musical memory playlist.

If the person with dementia you’re supporting becomes distressed

Over the coming weeks, it’s possible that your loved one may become anxious or upset. To support them through this, we recommend trying the following:

  • First and foremost, acknowledge what the person is trying to say

  • Convey that you want to help

  • Use reflective listening, where you paraphrase and restate the feelings and words of the person so that feel understood and have the opportunity to focus their ideas

  • Offer reassurance, understanding their needs

  • Reduce distractions

  • Stay calm, neutral, show willingness and be empathetic

  • Watch for non-verbal communication

We have further advice on supporting someone with dementia, including easing their stresses and frustrations, in this blog post.

What about if you’re supporting someone from a distance?

If you have a family member with dementia who does not live with you, there are still ways you can make a positive difference. This includes:

  • Helping with food shopping - ordering or delivering this for them, whilst keeping the correct distance apart

  • Ensuring they stay updated if online advice about COVID-19 changes. You could print information off and send this through the post

  • Setting your loved one up with ways to stay connected with you and others. You might want to use platforms for video calling such as Skype, WhatsApp or FaceTime

Do you require further support?

If you have any questions about how to provide support to someone living at home with dementia at this time, or are looking for further information, please seek advice from the Alzheimer’s Society. Alternatively, if you would like to find out more about the dementia care services we provide at Priory Adult Care, please call our helpful team today on 0808 208 2147 or complete our short enquiry form by clicking here and we will be in touch.