In these uncertain times, it can be hard to keep up with everything you need to do to protect yourself and those you care for. Although Alzheimer’s disease does not increase a person’s risk for COVID-19 infection, they may have a greater risk for complications due to older age and other preexisting conditions, so it’s important to take safety precautions.
Here are some helpful tips for caregivers to keep people with Alzheimer’s disease healthy:
1. Follow safety guidelines
Everyone living in your home, including caregivers, should wash their hands frequently, maintain social distance, and wear a mask to lower the risk of infection. Caregivers should help patients remember to wash their hands and avoid touching their face and mouth. Notes around the house can help reinforce this behavior.
If others visit the home to provide care, be sure to follow COVID-19 questioning before they enter: Ask if they’ve been well, had any symptoms, or may have been exposed to someone carrying the virus.
2. Consider their mental well-being
Keeping in contact with familiar faces can be comforting, but can be tricky, if not impossible, during these times. If your loved one lives in a care facility, work with the staff to schedule video calls and face-to-face “visits” through a window where patients can see visitors safely. For those with preserved remote memories, sharing photographs and music from their youth may also help their well-being.
3. Explain new procedures
If a person with Alzheimer’s disease notices the changes in safety procedures, tailor your explanation for them. For instance, “Everything is ok, we are just trying to keep everyone healthy and well.” If the patient can understand the situation, a caregiver might explain, “There is a pandemic affecting people around the world and we want to keep you safe.”
4. Watch for signs of COVID-19
Because a person with Alzheimer’s may not be able to verbalize how they feel, keep an eye out for COVID-19 symptoms including cough, fever, and shortness of breath, and watch for changes in behavior indicating fatigue, loss of taste and/or smell, headache, and other less visible symptoms. If someone with Alzheimer’s becomes infected with COVID-19, take them to see a healthcare provider or to the emergency room, if necessary.
5. Make caregiver health a priority
Many caregivers living in the home have 24/7 responsibility and should take time for themselves to recharge when possible. It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan in case the primary caregiver becomes ill or has another medical issue.
During the pandemic, caregivers can follow these steps to keep their loved ones with Alzheimer’s safe and maintain their quality of life. For more information on brain diseases and brain health, visit www.americanbrainfoundation.org.