The disruption can cause them greater confusion and increased stress, which may prompt abnormal behaviors, such as acting out.
The best thing family caregivers can do while keeping their loved one home during the pandemic is to establish new routines. Make a daily schedule that incorporates consistency in activities. This new routine will soon become the new norm.
One normal routine seniors with dementia and their families have grown to depend upon is adult day care, which provides respite for families and activities, exercise and an opportunity for socializing for the senior. All of these have been proven to help slow the progression of dementia. But because many centers closed during the pandemic, families have reported noticeable cognitive decline in their loved ones.
Family caregivers can help by scheduling simple daily exercises and engaging them in activities, such as puzzles, singing, or arts and crafts. To help them socialize, set up FaceTime or Zoom meetings with friends and family.
Other challenges and disruptions for seniors with dementia are the safety measures needed to prevent the spread of the virus. Seniors with dementia may not understand why they need to wear a mask and will refuse to do so willingly. They may not fathom the importance of thorough handwashing and must be assisted. They may not grasp the necessity of socially distancing from their loved ones.
And the general public may not understand these aspects of dementia when they see a senior without a mask and not social distancing. Signage that explains why some seniors aren’t wearing masks might be helpful. To increase the public’s awareness, more emphasis on how dementia patients are affected by the pandemic could be discussed in statewide town hall meetings and televised press conferences.
The state’s COVID-19 press conferences encourage everyone to wear masks to curtail the spread of the disease. Due to health problems, some people are not able to wear them — this includes some dementia patients.
Health and safety come first, but tolerance and understanding are more important than ever.
HALE HAU‘OLI HAWAI‘I
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