During this pandemic, over 13,000 more Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients have died than expected from these cognitive disorders, and it’s not the virus. Those with any of the forms of dementia living in facilities designed to protect them from the deadly virus have died, not from COVID, but from isolation.
The number of COVID deaths has broken through the 200,000 mark this week, and we all know that older adults are much more vulnerable to the virus than younger Americans. Senior communities, in particular, have been extraordinarily careful about not allowing family members from the outside to get near their older loved ones in order to protect residents from infection. But doctors have reported a surprising rise in the numbers of falls, pulmonary infections, sepsis and depression among dementia patients during these past six months among patients who had been quite stable and otherwise healthy for years prior to the pandemic. An option to explore with your loved one’s senior community is to seek permission to hire a private duty caregiver through an agency who can attend your loved one. Many communities are overworked and understaffed in the present pandemic/quarantine, and added personal attention will benefit your loved one.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) has some recommendations for families and caregivers of someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementia caring at home:
- Dementia patients have sensitivity to water, so sing a couple verses of “Happy Birthday” as you help them wash as a pleasant distraction;
- Be careful to be a calm model, because a dementia patient will be very attuned to what you say and your body language;
- Since washing is critical and they may resist washing, talk in a soothing tone and consider a fragranced soap that they may like;
- As an alternative for cleaning hands use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer – 60%+ alcohol according to CDC;
- Encourage consistent hydration to bolster their immune systems, but also be prepared to assist with more trips to the restroom;
- Have visual and tactile diversions on hand like photo albums, lively musical movies or just sorting the socks from the week’s laundry.
Everything about this pandemic is unprecedented, a word that I personally have used more times in the past six months that all of my years leading up to it. So, this is the latest learning in response to the scientists who are paying attention to the impact of COVID. We will keep you informed as we learn along with everyone else on this “unprecedented” journey.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.