Responding Instead of Reacting; Tips for Dementia Care While In Crisis
Consider these educational tips when you are at home under quarantine, and also being a caregiver to someone living with dementia. In a time where restrictions and recommendations are coming fast, it is important to consider that the majority of people living with dementia simply cannot follow these restrictions without assistance.
Wash your hands frequently? It is recommended that those living with dementia be placed on a supervised “hand washing schedule” followed by the use of moisturizer to avoid skin breakdown. It is helpful to give visual prompting and gestures to the sink when it is time to accomplish this task. Another option is a shortcut option, where you introduce a warm moist hand towel to the person throughout the day.
Keep yourself hydrated? Hydration is important for those living with dementia at all times, but especially during a widespread virus. Recommended assistance may include verbal, visual or tactile cues. It is critical that they are offered hydration throughout the day as they might not be able to recognize the sensation of thirst. Having water at the ready, by way of a straw or favorite cup will be visual encouragement to drink water. You can always make up a reason for a toast – “Cheers to the fact that it’s Friday!” and then clink your cups together before drinking. This is a creative and fun way to sneak in water throughout your day.
Personal Protective Equipment – If your family members are wearing gloves and masks, it’s worth considering that they are also given to the person living with dementia. One might think that they are spreading germs if everyone has on the equipment except them. It is a visual cue that something is about to happen and can cause anxiety. If you are in your home and following sanitization and proper hygiene, it may not even be necessary.
Media/News Coverage- You and I hear the news and are able to interpret it appropriately. The sense of hearing is not altered for us. Remember the significant change in hearing for those living with dementia. They may only hear every few words, the words may be jumbled or even different words all together. This is part of the brain change and sensory changes that happen with dementia. Limiting the amount of news coverage that a person living with dementia hears may eliminate this distress. You and I also have the gift of discernment, where we are able to determine if the source of the news is credible, where someone living with dementia cannot.
Focus on Stress Reducers – Remember that the body responds to a big, deep breath with a lowered heart rate and a sense of calm. All of us can utilize the things that make us feel less stressed during this time. Stretching and deep breathing combined with mindful meditation are all wonderful ways to beat stress. Consider going for walk outside (of course observing social distancing guidelines) and keep yourselves socially connected with friends and family by way of video calling. Make every effort to maintain the routines that the person living with dementia are used to, which will help reduce stress as well.
It’s so important that we think carefully about the environment for those living with dementia and RESPOND instead of REACTING out of stress.
Continue to be well and safe. Best Regards!