For individuals and families facing dementia, the need to observe social distancing is critically important to their health and safety. But social distancing should not lead to social isolation. No one should face these uncertain times alone.
The Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter is encouraging the community to lend a helping hand. Below are six things people can do to help dementia caregivers and their loved ones as they weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines to ensure their continued safety and yours, including practicing safe distancing and good hygiene.
1. Check in with them regularly. Reach out by phone, email, video chat or text. Let them know you’re thinking of them and take time to have a conversation. Almost two out of every three dementia caregivers say feeling isolated or alone is a significant challenge, and checking in regularly will help them feel supported.
2. Offer to drop off or send supplies. Make sure they are stocked up on non-perishable food items and other essential supplies. If you are planning a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy, offer to pick up what they need, including prescription medication that may be running low. You may also consider preparing a meal and leaving it at their door, or ordering food to be delivered to their home.
3. Be specific when offering support. Open-ended offers of support (“call me if you need anything” or “let me know if I can help”) are often dismissed. Try making your offer of help or support more specific (“I’m going to the store, what do you need?” or “I’m making lasagna and will drop some off on your front porch.”) 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 there and ready to help.
4. Encourage the caregiver to practice good self-care. Many dementia caregivers find it difficult to attend to their own self-care needs. Recommend that they take a break from the news and social media. Ask if they’re eating and sleeping okay. Recommend they engage in an activity they enjoy or that would help them recharge.
5. 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 children, a book or magazine they might enjoy or a person’s favorite treat. Even the smallest gestures make a big difference!
6. Connect them to the Alzheimer’s Association for support. During this time, the Alzheimer’s Association is providing around-the-clock care and support. Many support groups and educational programs are being offered online or over the phone. The 24/7 Helpline (1.800.272.3900) 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.