As the number of coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise in Florida, it is important to remember that seniors continue to be the most vulnerable, even though more young people are contracting the disease. Have you considered how caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia during COVID-19 might present a variety of issues?
As if caregivers don’t have enough concerns when helping aging adults with cognitive impairment, when providing assistance to seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia during COVID-19, there are special challenges to consider.
Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs published an article that explains the difficulties caregivers experience as they attempt to protect elders with memory impairments.
“When providing daily care to a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, caregivers face special challenges. COVID-19 may present additional concerns because dementia-related behaviors, increased age, and common health conditions may create additional needs,” the article states.
Caregivers to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients often provide personal care to promote good hygiene and cleanliness. Washing hands is a simple task that the majority of Americans are doing much more frequently now. However, seniors with memory issues may forget to wash their hands regularly, much less, wash them for 20 seconds!
It is important caregivers remind those in their charge to wash their hands more often, even if the senior doesn’t understand why. Written reminders in the kitchen and bathroom can help prompt patients with cognitive impairment to remember to wash their hands for 20 seconds.
Hand sanitizer is another relatively simple way to “wash” hands when soap and water is not readily available. “Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be a quick alternative to hand-washing, if the person with dementia cannot get to a sink or wash his/her hands easily.”
Family members and/or primary caregivers should also consider exploring options for obtaining longer-term prescriptions from the pharmacy to reduce trips. Home Helpers® caregivers provide homemaking services and gladly pick-up prescriptions and run errands, like grocery shopping, for seniors in their care. The point is, the less frequently seniors with cognitive impairments are exposed to the public, the less likely they will be exposed to the coronavirus.
If someone with dementia was accustomed to visiting adult daycare centers, senior centers or support groups, these should be avoided or cancelled entirely. In as much as social engagement is important to seniors – especially those with mental conditions – it is too unsafe, because social distancing is not something easily explained or followed.
It’s a good idea to keep a contingency plan in place should the primary caregiver become ill. I employ a team of caregivers at Home Helpers, who are skillfully-trained, ready, willing and able to assist seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia, 24/7/365.
If you have a senior loved one in an assisted living facility or a nursing home, “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have provided guidance to facilities on infection control and prevention of COVID-19 in nursing homes. This guidance is for the health and safety of residents, and it can be helpful for families to know what to expect based on local situations.”
Please make sure you contact the facility where your loved one resides and inquire about the actual procedures they have in place and practice to minimize their COVID risk.
Although, Florida’s Division of Emergency Management has an order limiting most visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some exceptions for visitations can be made, but you must check with the facility and adhere to their screening and documentation process.
If visitation is not allowed, ask the facility how you can have contact with your family member? Options include telephone calls, video chats, or even emails to check in. If your family member is unable to engage in calls or video chats, ask the facility how you can keep in touch with staff members for updates about your loved one.
At the risk of sounding redundant, these guidelines from the CDC and Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs will help caregivers – and the seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia in their charge – stay healthy at home:
- Pay attention to any fever, flu, or pneumonia-like symptoms and report them to a medical professional immediately.
- Follow current guidance and instruction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding COVID-19.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Caregivers and family members should stay home when sick.
- Always cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; or cough/sneeze into the crook of your arm.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty
If you are concerned about your senior loved one and their risk of contracting COVID-19, my team and I understand. Please read more about the specialized training our staff has received and Home Helpers® official COVID-19 response to this public health crisis. Rest assured, a compassionate Home Helpers® caregiver can help your senior loved one with Alzheimer ’s disease or dementia stay healthier at home. I am available to schedule a FREE Consultation, at your convenience, to assess specific needs, and find the best, highly-trained caregiver to safely assist. Call me today for more information: 727.942.2539.
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠
Department of Elder Affairs, State of Florida