COVID-19 is disrupting life for people of all ages, but its impact has been most felt by older adults.
People older than 60 are more susceptible to complications from the virus, and have been asked to keep even more extreme distancing measures for their safety. Senior care facilities throughout the U.S. have implemented strict restrictions for residents and guests.
Social distancing is important to the health and safety of older adults, but that doesn’t have to mean social isolation, according to Heidi Rowell, program director for the Alzheimer’s Association Oregon & Southwest Washington Chapter.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health of millions in this country and around the world, the novel coronavirus presents unique challenges for more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers,” Rowell said.
The Alzheimer’s Association Oregon & Southwest Washington Chapter has recommended six things you can do to help dementia caregivers and their loved ones during the pandemic. The association’s recommendations were emailed to The Columbian and have been edited for brevity.
• Check with caregivers regularly. Reach out by phone, email, video chat or text. Almost two out of every three dementia caregivers say they feel isolated.
• Offer to drop off or send supplies. If you are planning a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy, offer to pick up what they need, including prescription medications. Also consider preparing a meal and leaving it at their door, or ordering food to be delivered to their home.
• Be specific when offering support. Open-ended offers of support (“call me if you need anything”) are often dismissed. Try making your offer more specific (“I’m going to the store, what do you need?”) Don’t get frustrated if your offer of support is not immediately accepted. The family may need time to assess its needs. Continue to let the caregiver know that you are ready to help.
• Encourage self-care. Many dementia caregivers find it difficult to attend to their own needs. Recommend that they take a break from the news and social media. Ask if they’re eating and sleeping OK. Recommend an activity they enjoy, or something that would help them recharge.
• Send or drop off a care package. Brighten a caregiver’s day and let them know you’re thinking of them. It could be something as simple as a handwritten note, artwork created by your kids, a book or magazine they might enjoy, or a person’s favorite treat.
• Connect them to the Alzheimer’s Association for support. Many support groups and educational programs are being offered online or over the phone. The 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900) is also available for anyone seeking information, support or connection to local resources.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and ways you can support individuals and families facing dementia by visiting alz.org.