People with dementia are facing multiple risks right now when it comes to COVID-19 and the physical isolation that everyone is experiencing. Not only are they in the high-risk group when it comes to suffering caused by the virus, they are also more likely to experience worsening physical and emotional health as a result of being isolated. Self-isolation and social distancing has changed the lives of many people with dementia. Those who live in long-term care facilities are no longer receiving visits from family members or friends. Those who live in the community in their own homes may be missing services that they once used such as personal care aides or visits to adult day care centers. They also are not receiving visitors and lacking most social contact.
These changes could be extremely harmful to people with dementia. Some of the most common advice experts typically give to people with dementia and caregivers is to get hands-on help at home, take advantage of respite services like adult day care, and keep up friendships and social activities. With all or most of these options taken away, health and well-being is likely to suffer. Spouses and family caregivers are also under increased burden as most of the extra help has been taken away.
What can help at a time like this? First, we recommend finding out if in-home care is still available and allowable for your situation. Home care companies are still ready and willing to help if needed, and they can help you determine what services are considered essential and therefore still allowed to happen. Second, we recommend that both people with dementia and caregivers plan activities that get them outside and active. Walking, gardening, or even chair exercises on a patio can help boost your mood and keep the body and brain as active as possible during this time. Finally, we encourage you to seek phone support either personally or by joining a phone support group. Kent County has a new service called COVID-19 Senior Support which is offering help finding assistance with daily needs and providing regular phone checks for older adults to ensure they are healthy and well. As far as support groups, there are many dementia support groups who have moved online or to the telephone that anyone can join. These are available for caregivers and for people who have dementia.