Dementia and Coronavirus - Tips and Resources

March 20, 2020 | Caregiver Resources

Just like everyone else in the world right now, we are paying attention to COVID-19 and trying to understand how it is impacting, and will impact, the people we care about. Organizations around the world have started publishing tips and resources for people with dementia and their caregivers when it comes to preventing illness and caring for someone while in isolation. We’ve summarized and linked their advice here. The end of this article features information about virtual support groups and phone support that anyone may take advantage of while we are unable to gather for such things in person. 

How to reduce the risk of someone with dementia getting COVID-19: 

  • Prevent exposure to the virus, just like anyone else. Stay home, do not come into contact with anyone who may have been exposed or may be sick.  

  • Help ensure the person is washing their hands and staying clean. This may require frequent reminders or even assistance, depending on the person’s cognitive ability.  

  • Keep up good nutrition, water intake, and exercise so the person stays as healthy and strong as possible. 

How to prepare for isolation with someone with dementia: 

  • Stock up on important supplies like prescriptions, to eliminate unnecessary trips to the doctor or pharmacy 

  • Come up with a system for grocery and supply delivery from a delivery service, family member or friend 

  • Come up with a list of ideas for activities and engagement like games, puzzles, movies, and music to keep the person with dementia busy and active  

  • Set up a way to conference call or video chat with family members and friends, and consider making a schedule or plan for connecting with people on a regular basis 

  • Plan to get outside as much as possible by walking, gardening, or even just sitting in a chair with some blankets to keep warm 

  • Make a plan for what would happen if one or both of you were to get sick, with COVID-19 or with something else. Is there an alternate caregiver that could help, or someone you could call for assistance? It’s vital to think about this possibility and have some ideas of what you would do 

How to help a person with dementia that you do not live with: 

  • Plan to make regular phone calls, and video calls if possible, to keep up the social connection 

  • Ask to take over some tasks like communicating with doctors, especially right now when access to doctors is different than before and may be very confusing 

  • Deliver groceries, supplies, and activities or things to do 

  • If the person lives in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, stay updated on their current policies and procedures so you know when and if you can visit. Communicate with staff to ask how you can help and ask for their help in passing along messages or setting up phone or video calls.  

  • Make sure your contact information is posted or visibly available so the person and anyone else around knows that you are the one to contact should anything happen  

How to get help online or over the phone: 

  • Phone support helplines – Call any of these phone numbers for questions about dementia, caregiving, or immediate support with a situation at hand 
    • Alzheimer’s Association Helpline, (800) 272-3900 – Available 24/7 
    • Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Helpline, (800) 232-8484 – Available 9am-9pm on weekdays and 9am-3pm on weekends 
    • Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Email or Chat  
  • Rethinking Dementia is available by phone at (616) 247-9630 or email at contact@rethinkingdementiami.org to answer questions about West Michigan support and resources and make referrals to appropriate services  
  • Phone or Online Support Groups 

Sources and Further Reading: