Caregivers for elders with dementia now face more challenges than ever.
More than 16 million Americans provided unpaid care worth almost $244 billion last year to family members and friends with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Almost a quarter of those caregivers – about 4 million of them – belong to the sandwich generation, taking care of their children and someone from their parents’ generation.
Now the Coronavirus pandemic is making their work, which was never easy to begin with, even harder.
In addition to the challenges that ordinarily come with dementia, they now have to help elders ward off a virus that elders are particularly vulnerable to. And that’s hard when the elders in question aren’t aware of or unable to communicate the onset of symptoms.
Here are some things you can do to reduce the vulnerability and the strain:
Be extra observant. Keep a sharp eye out for COVID-19 symptoms your family member may not realize they have.
Watch out for a sudden change in cognition. Unlike a gradual change, it could mean the onset of fever and the time to call for medical help.
Have a plan in case the usual caregiver gets sick and for other possible scenarios. (Senior Insights can help you with that.)
Hygiene really matters. So make sure to keep cleaning down tabletops and other surfaces throughout your home – including your elder’s living quarters. Demonstrate thorough hand washing, and make sure they wash their hands often with soap and water. In addition to reminding them in person, post signs on their bathroom mirror and elsewhere. Put a bottle of alcohol-based (at least 60%) hand sanitizer in their bedroom and bathroom.
Try to maintain a normal daily schedule. People with dementia can find changes scary.
Take good care of yourself. Almost two thirds (64%) of caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s disease say ever since becoming caregivers, they’ve had concerns about maintaining their own health. You can get valuable self-care tips by joining an Alzheimer’s Association support group, either online or by conference call. The best thing you can do for the person you’re caring for is to stay healthy and strong.
Do everything you can to reduce stress. Be aware that people living with dementia may not fully understand what’s happening; they’re good at sensing and reacting to yours and others’ signs of stress. Now that the pandemic has slammed shut escape hatches like movies, libraries, and normal socializing, find some other ways to take a break – and take it. Take a walk, stroll through a park (maintaining social distancing), meditate, stream movies, chat with friends using Face Time, Duo, Skype, Zoom, or other VOIP platforms.
If you have any questions about dementia caregiving, coping with the Coronavirus outbreak, or retirement years in general, please feel free to call or email us. Just as we always have, we’ll be happy to give you honest, objective answers