Coronavirus and Dementia
By Carolyn Atkinson
Volunteer and HR Co-ordinator at Chichester Cathedral
These are truly unprecedented times, with so much being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. For many of us the time spent in ‘lockdown’ has been overwhelmingly difficult, distanced from family and friends and missing those all-important hugs. Living with dementia at any time brings challenges, both for the person and those around them, but the coronavirus has made daily life so much harder, causing people to become more socially isolated and increasingly dependent on others for support.
But help is available. The Alzheimer’s Society can answer questions on all aspects of dementia, and during the coronavirus pandemic can offer advice and practical tips for people living with dementia and those supporting them – either in the same household or from a distance. From suggestions for ways in which carers can look after their own mental health and advice on arranging food and medicine deliveries, to activity ideas to keep active and purposeful when staying at home and to what to do if someone falls ill.
Now, more than ever, our communities need Dementia Friends. As a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Society, my commitment as a Dementia Friends Champion includes helping to create a dementia-friendly community at Chichester Cathedral, a place where people with dementia are understood, respected and supported by people who are aware of and understand dementia.
Dementia Friends, along with the Alzheimer’s Society, have been working hard to ensure that we can continue our support and are now running training workshops to deliver Information Sessions remotely to enable all Chichester Cathedral staff and 500+ volunteers to become Dementia Friends. For anyone interested in joining us (even if your staff are furloughed), please contact me on [email protected] for more information.
Go With The Flow – Communicating with people living with Dementia
We can often take communication for granted, but, this is one of the key areas of difficulty that develops in people living with dementia. In some cases, they are not able to express their physical and emotional needs.
Speaking to Aimee Parr, one of the Wayfinders at Sage House, there are some very easy steps you can take to help you care for a loved one living with dementia:
- Body language is very important – face them
- Be interested in what they are saying and be patient
- Respect their views, make them feel that they are heard
An example of how one might use this to navigate some of the issues the current pandemic poses follows. A lady living in a care home, asked the carer when her children will come and collect her. Instead of telling her that her kids are not coming, it can often be better to just go with the flow and tell her that her children will be coming later and that she is safe with people who love her.
Another example of going with the flow is that one of the regular clients who visits Sage House believes he is coming to work, and he is the CEO of the company. Instead of telling him that he is part of the Daybreak Programme for people living with Dementia, all our staff just go with the flow and make him feel valued. Talking to the gentleman about his role has helped to increase his confidence and allowed him to feel comfortable and positive while he is visiting.
At times, we may feel guilty for being dishonest, but for someone living with dementia the storyline or time they find themselves in, is their reality. Breaking that reality and telling them, “you have told me that already” or “your Mum passed away a long time ago” can be extremely upsetting and stressful, and can sometimes discourage them from talking altogether. It is possible they are craving the feelings that person or time once gave them, like protection, safety or love. Involving yourself in what they are talking about will help to validate their feelings and hopefully bring back happier times for the person with dementia.
The bottom line is, go with the flow, and you might even find out some interesting facts about your person living with Dementia.
Sage House, Dementia Support
Coronavirus support from Dementia Connect
• Dementia Friends: https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/
• Dementia Connect Support Line: 0333 150 3456
• Alzheimer’s Society: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/coronavirus-covid-19
• Connect with other people affected by dementia via Talking Point: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-talking-point-our-online-community