There are more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK (the majority of these are over the age of 65 and living with other health conditions). This can mean that they are more vulnerable to developing infections and experiencing severe symptoms. Here we provide some information about COVID-19 and dementia and some information about managing at this difficult time.
Living with dementia at any time brings everyday challenges for the person and those around them. Coronavirus is making daily life that bit harder. You may feel anxious, scared or lonely. But you are not alone.
If you are the primary care giver for someone living with dementia, you are still able to do this under current guidelines.
It can be difficult to explain self-isolation, social distancing and hand washing to someone with dementia, as they can struggle with complex information. Make sure any instructions are clear and repeated often and slowly as not to cause agitation. Sometimes leaving notes for people in places around their homes can serve as a reminder.
People with dementia in their own homes may already feel isolated, and further self-isolation may make this worse. Make sure care plans are in place, and anyone providing care or support is doing so safely and within government guidelines. Stay connected by calling often, writing letters, visiting following latest guidance and try to encourage exercise and hobbies within the person’s home.
People with dementia may, however, be more vulnerable at home. Dependant on the situation if they are alone, a fall may not be picked up for a couple of days, or they are unable to complete simple tasks and unable to call for assistance which may lead to neglect. For these residents in particular, a care home should offer the safer solution. Residents will have 24-hour care with trained staff and with someone always on hand, the residents should always have interaction, not only with staff but other residents too.
During covid, families were hesitant to place loved ones in to care homes due to the risk of contracting the virus. However, due to the extra measures which were put into place, homes tended to be predominantly a safe environment.
With increased cleaning schedules, full PPE supplies, temperature checks for residents and staff, care homes are not unsafe places.
If you are worried, then here at Serene you can talk to us about any concerns you have and how you can visit the person safely or support the person from a distance.
Visits to care homes were restricted or not possible at the start of the pandemic. Now care homes are open again for indoor visits which we hope remains the case.
In a major milestone for the NHS vaccination programme, nurses, GPs and other NHS staff have offered the life-saving jab to people living at more than 10,000 care homes with older residents. All residents have been offered the vaccination and prioritised getting the vaccination along with all care staff who would lie it, as the government continues the role out of the national vaccination plan.
With doors to care homes open again, residents can nominate up to 5 named visitors who will be able to enter the care home for regular visits. These visitors should be tested using rapid lateral flow tests before every visit, must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow all other infection control measures during visits. Visitors and residents are advised to keep physical contact to a minimum.
If you have not been nominated as a visitor, care homes can still continue to offer visits to other friends or family members through arrangements such as outdoor visiting, rooms with substantial screens, visiting pods, or from behind windows.
If it is the first time you have seen your loved ones since restrictions have been eased, remember, for a person with dementia, especially if they have struggled with remote contact, a lack of in-person visits may making their dementia worse. It may cause apathy, agitation and changes to their behaviour that might be challenging for them and other people. Talk to us about the benefits to wellbeing that your visit could bring and remember that things will have been hard for all of us.
Your reunion may well be emotional. If it’s been a long time since they saw you – and if the person has memory problems, you may need to gently remind them who you are.
You may need to mention coronavirus to explain why you couldn’t visit before but rest assured our staff do whatever they can to manage remote visitation. Talking about earlier times you’ve enjoyed together may be a way of keeping the conversation more cheerful as well as speaking clearly and louder than usual to be heard through your face covering.
Unfortunately, wearing of face coverings in public areas will probably stay in place in the UK until at least 2022. Expectations are similar for UK government guidance on physical distancing, with most anticipating that 2 metre or “1 metre-plus” measures will remain until 2022 or later. This makes contact with dementia patients increasingly difficult. With declining memory residents are struggling to recognise family and care workers through visual contact alone. Wearing a lanyard with your picture or presenting photos can help reassure the patient of who they are speaking to.
Get in touch if you need anymore advice and we would be more than happy to help in any way we can.