Social isolation is not a new concept for people living with dementia. Many already exist in a micro community of safe familiar environments where life is much easier to manage and control. However, enforced separation from family and loss of social routine is placing increased strain on families living with the disease.
Organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK are an invaluable resource. There is a lot of information flying around which can be confusing and overwhelming. We chatted to some of our readers and pulled together some useful tips, resources and aids for living with dementia in a pandemic.
Having to repeatedly explain the current crisis is exhausting.
Try writing notes on a blackboard or in a notebook explaining that you can’t go out because of COVID 19. Include a short description of the coronavirus and explain that you have to social distance from people for health reasons. This will hopefully help to deflect the repetitive questioning and reinforce the message.
Try a combination chalk/pin/wipe board from Amazon is perfect for writing information, daily routines and pinning useful documents. £22.99
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
We have witnessed a huge surge in community spirit. If you don’t live near your parents, you can contact their local council for support. They can put you in touch with local volunteer groups who can help carers with things like ‘phone befriending and essential supplies.
Street ‘WhatsApp’ groups are popping up everywhere. This neighbourly support can be a lifeline for those who can’t leave the house. Your parents may have received a note through the door asking them to join, however fear of scamming and technology might stop them. It’s worth asking if they’ve had a note and see if you can both connect with the neighbours. Click here for our guide to WhatsApp.
If you feel that living with dementia has become too much and someone might be in danger, make sure you call your GP and/or social services for help. They will be able to visit for a care assessment and recommend the next steps in terms of care. Do not suffer in silence.
Hide Keys & Phones
This might sound harsh, but both can be unnecessarily problematic.
Sadly, people are still making scam calls and people living with dementia are particularly susceptible. They can also become nuisance callers themselves, calling people by accident and at irregular hours, especially if you have speed dial set up.
Visit www.alzproducts.co.uk for call blockers and incoming calls only ‘phones.
Car keys might be a temptation for people living with dementia. They might forget they are not supposed to leave the house. On their timescale, they might think they need to go to work for example. Apart, from the very obvious danger they pose to themselves and others, they could lose their bearings and get lost.
For older people prone to wandering, GPS trackers are a really good idea. They come in a variety of sizes and styles from key rings to shoe inserts. Click the link to be taken to a guide on buying GPS trackers which includes a list of some of the best ones to buy.
The Herbert Protocol is a nationwide initiative helping the Police to quickly find elderly people who wander and go missing. Carers complete a form in advance, recording vital details such as medications, mobile numbers, places previously located (if they’ve gone missing before), historic/emotional places of importance and photographs. It’s a good idea to let family know where the form is and take a picture on your ‘phone so you have access in case of emergency.
This is really important for the carer, who’s social interaction is severely limited. There are many ways to stay connected these days but blessed with time, we favour some of the older methods. Get the grandchildren to write letters, draw pictures and print photo’s with an accompanying story.
Photographs are a great memory tool. This might be the perfect time to organise old photo’s and to revisit and share special times. You could create a life story book, writing a brief synopsis to each picture – Something to look forward to sharing with younger generations.
It’s good to talk – encourage your parents to chat to neighbours over the garden fence. As long as you stay at least 2 metres from each other, it’s OK and it will be a welcome social respite.
This is an opportunity to get your parents active online. Spend time connecting and teaching them how to use Skype or WhatsApp. Maybe even progress to the wonderful world of social media. They might even reconnect with old friends via Facebook!
Technology can be amazing and we can’t recommend the benefits of a Smart Home enough. Everything from remote heating and electrical controls to sensor plugs and cameras. All controlled remotely from a ‘phone or laptop. If your parents live a distance away you can be reassured their home is running smoothly.
There are a lot of Smart Home providers, however, Hive is one of the nation’s favourites.
Listen to music
Those with children might remember the witching hour. The same thing happens with people with dementia – they become more agitated, aggressive or confused late afternoon/early evening. This is referred to as ‘sundowning’ and often happens in the middle and later stages of dementia.
Music can be incredibly calming during the sundowning hours. It is a good idea to listen to music and help them reconnect with happy memories. Check out BBC Music Memories or ask family to create a playlist of favourite songs using iPlayer or Spotify. Playlist for Life has information about music and dementia, and advice about how and when to listen to it.
Keep mentally and physically stimulated
Creative and activity-based apps and games are a good way of keeping brains active and keeping busy. AcToDementia is a useful website for online games. The Alzheimer’s Society have an online shop with a variety of puzzles and games.
Amazon are now offering a 30-day free trial for their audio books on Audible. Great for readers who can no longer focus on the page.
Sport England has lots of ideas on how to keep active whilst staying at home. They are broadcasting a daily 10 minute activity session (10 today) on BBC Radio 5 Live, designed for older adults. You can also listen to this online.
If you live with someone with dementia, this might be a useful time to put pen to paper and share your story to help others. Visit the Alzheimer’s Society blog writing page for more information on getting started.
Sense of purpose
Normal life might have been interrupted but it’s still good to keep to a routine. It can make a massive difference waking every morning and knowing you have a plan for the day.
Write a list of everything you enjoy doing, both together and independently. Include people you want to reconnect with and those you’d like to talk to regularly. Make a timetable of meals to cook, special treats to bake, programmes to watch, puzzles to complete and books to read.
Treat yourself to something nice every day. This could be as simple as a cup of tea with a book after your partner has gone to bed. Maybe treat yourself to a takeaway or a small gift – a book, flowers or nice hand cream. For remote family members, this is a lovely way of letting your parents know you are thinking of them and boosting their day.
For more information and support on Dementia, click HERE for our free Dementia Guide.
Coronavirus advice for the elderly, visit our Coronavirus section.