The lockdown restrictions have been tough on everyone, everywhere but, for families with vulnerable loved ones with dementia, it’s been particularly tough.
This is because people with dementia (PwD) are more likely to feel overwhelmed and confused by the current situation, making it all the more heart-breaking that close family members remain unable to visit them on a regular basis.
However, the overwhelming threat of coronavirus is very real, so it’s imperative for us all to do our bit to minimise its spread and reduce the number of cases currently being seen across the UK.
It’s also vital for us to look out for the key workers who have had no choice but to work on the frontline throughout the pandemic – and that includes all the carers of dementia patients.
So, with this in mind, we thought we’d compile a few ideas on how to support carers and their dementia patients throughout lockdown. After all, there is a lot more you can do than you might think.
Abide by the rules
The first and most obvious thing you can do to protect dementia patients and their carers is to actually stick to the government’s coronavirus guidelines.
They are there for a reason, after all. So, while it may be frustrating to spend day after day stuck in lockdown, only through a collective effort will we be able to stem the flow of the pandemic and, fundamentally, keep more people alive.
Therefore, the more you can do to minimise contact with others, the smaller the spread of the virus will be and the higher the number of PwD/carers receiving vaccines will be. This, in turn, will provide them both with the protection they need to see out the pandemic as risk-free as possible.
Likewise, in cases where you are allowed to visit your loved one, make sure you regularly get yourself tested using a COVID-19 rapid antigen test to ensure you’re COVID-free. The last thing you want to do, after all, is put them or their carer at risk.
Keep in regular contact
The lockdown has made everyone feel a lot more isolated than ever before, so it’s important to keep in regular contact with both PwD and their carers to maintain their mental health
While Zoom or Facetime calls will never be able to replace the feeling of meeting someone in person, if you have a PwD in your family, these tools are still a great means of being able to see and speak to them.
Similarly, since their carer will be spending so much of their time looking after your loved one, they will be best-placed to keep you updated on their latest situation, providing you with the reassurance that they’re doing okayin your temporary absence.
While on the topic of keeping in regular contact, if a carer proves difficult to get hold of, try to remember how much they have on their plate at the moment.
Thanks to the pandemic, they will also currently be unable to see their friends and family. So, in cases where they aren’t contactable right away, or you’re unable to speak to your loved one at a specific time, try not to get frustrated or take it out on them.
As the old phrase goes, positivity breeds positivity. Therefore, the more you can do to reassure PwD and their carers that they’re doing a good job, the better the situation will be for everyone.
Working as a carer can be hard work, after all, so – at this trying time – it’s important to keep their morale up as much as you can. And, while this may be difficult to do from a distance, acting positively in a difficult situation can make a significant difference.
Listed below are a few fun ideas to do just that, helping break the monotony of lockdown for both PwD and their carers via virtual means:
● Reminisce over your favourite memories
● Look at old videos together
● Send them a photo album
● Read them a book
● Watch films/TV shows together
Coming out of lockdown
The guidance for visiting for care homes
changes as of April 12th in England. Two nominated visitors will be allowed inside for repeat visits (together or separately) at care homes for working age and older adults.
These guidelines will require a test beforehand, PPE during the visit, and avoiding close contact. However, you will be able to hold hands indoors with your loved ones. This will provide much needed comfort to families and dementia patients who are in need of physical touch and affection.
Once this rule is in place, we would encourage as much visitation as allowed in order to make up for lost time, making sure you adhere to all the rules and make safety the priority.
Don’t get discouraged if it seems overwhelming or upsetting after a long time in isolation, keep positive and remember that your loved one's health may have regressed slightly during the lockdown so be prepared for this.
Once the lockdown is eased even further, the topic of wearing a mask in public spaces is also something that dementia carers and their loved ones should think about. Wearing a mask can be distressing for people with dementia so try lots of different styles and textures to see which, if any, they prefer wearing.
Try mirroring your own mask wearing and explaining why this is necessary without using any panic triggering words like ‘pandemic’. If this is still causing distress then download one of these helpcards in order to make this difficulty known to others.
In light of the pandemic, protecting the lives of other people has become more imperative than ever before.
While it may be incredibly difficult going through long periods being unable to visit vulnerable loved ones, it’s important to remember that this time will pass. When this time does pass, it’s important to be ready for these visits, making sure that you have foregone all the necessary safety checks, nominated a family member, and to give your loved one support in a way that is steady and not overwhelming.