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Caring for a loved one with dementia

Action on Alzheimer's and Dementia gives the following tips for helping loved ones with memory problems cope during the pandemic:

• If you feel it won't cause unnecessary worry, try providing newspaper articles or watching daily news briefings together. Repeated exposure to this information may assist them in understanding the current state of affairs and subsequent restrictions in terms of community access and activities.

• People with dementia may need extra and/or written reminders and support to remember important hygiene practices. Place visual cues in the bathroom and around the home to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds. Model good handwashing techniques so your loved one can copy you. Use alcohol-based hand sanitiser as a quick alternative.

• Without day programmes and support groups, it is imperative that you find alternative ways of engaging the person with dementia and providing yourself with some respite time. If possible set up different areas around your home so your loved one can move from activity to activity — watch favourite films, musicals, documentaries or game shows in the living room, listen to the radio in the kitchen while washing dishes or peeling vegetables, set up jigsaw puzzles or simple art activities on the dining table. If you can, provide easy access to the outdoors so your loved one can sit outside taking in some sunshine or fresh air, or go for short walks around the garden.

• Remember that everyday activities such as preparing meals and doing housekeeping tasks like dishes, laundry and gardening are a form of therapy and may help to engage your loved one for short periods of time throughout the day.

• Maintain a consistent and structured routine as much as possible. Ensure mealtimes and activity times are performed at the same time each day as this will help with general orientation for the person with dementia. Try to balance periods of activity with rest and relaxation time to better pace your energy levels throughout the day.

• Maintain your health by taking prescribed medication regularly, eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated. Try to participate in some gentle physical activity such as walking or gardening at least once a day and try to get a good night's sleep.

• Your loved one may require frequent reminders at this time to adhere to the necessary precautions. Try not to get frustrated or tell the person they “can't” do something as this will likely lead to behaviour problems. If repetition of information does not work, try to redirect your loved one to an alternative topic of conversation or activity. If you find yourself getting frustrated or angry, walk away and give yourself a few minutes of physical space. If possible, ask a family member or friend to call or video call with your loved one to give you a few minutes break each day.

• Try to plan ahead as much as possible to arrange for delivery of groceries, medication and other supplies to limit unnecessary interaction with others and the need to leave your loved one at home alone. Also plan ahead to ensure alternatives are in place should you become unwell and be unable to care for your loved one.

• Ensure professional care providers who enter your home stick to proper hygiene practices and are wearing personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks.

• Ageing & Disability Services are conducting checks on vulnerable people and can be reached on 292-7802. The Covid-19 hotline for symptoms of acute illness is on 444-2498 and is open between 9am and 9pm every day.

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Published May 18, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 18, 2020 at 8:18 am)

Caring for a loved one with dementia

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