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Alzheimer’s Insights: As we face the new normal

Scott Finley

There’s a container of hand sanitizer sitting on my desk as I write this today.   Four months ago that space would have probably been taken up by yesterday’s coffee mug.   Not anymore.

COVID-19 shows no signs of going away anytime soon.  What had been unthinkable now appears to be the new normal.

We’ve been fighting it for well over three months now.  That being said, perhaps it’s time to revisit a few tips for helping people living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia practice safe hygiene.

People with Alzheimer’s and other dementia may forget to wash their hands or follow other precautions to ensure safe hygiene. Caregivers are encouraged to be extra vigilant in helping individuals practice safe hygiene.

  • Consider placing signs in the bathroom and elsewhere to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds.
  • Demonstrate thorough hand-washing.
  • 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.

It’s also important for you as a caregiver to stay healthy.  Follow the Centers for Disease Control protocols.

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid close contact.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect.
  • Monitor your health

Remember that people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias may not be able to communicate if they are feeling bad and showing early symptoms of illness.

It is important that caregivers monitor family members closely and respond quickly to any signs of distress, discomfort, or increased confusion. These signs do not necessarily indicate a serious condition like COVID-19, but it’s important that caregivers be diligent in investigating what is causing any sudden or sustained change in behavior. Even when people living with Alzheimer’s cannot communicate verbally, their actions may be sending a message.

Pay attention to flu or pneumonia-like symptoms and report them to a medical professional immediately.

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating added anxiety for everyone. Do your best to remain calm, particularly in your interactions with family members living with dementia. Oftentimes, these individuals will take their cues from the people who surround them. Creating a calm environment will help individuals living with dementia feel safe and protected.

And just a reminder – you can always get the latest information about the Association’s COVID-19 emergency preparedness guidelines for Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers in long-term or community-based care settings here:

https://alz.org/professionals/professional-providers/coronavirus-covid-19-tips-for-dementia-caregivers

The Alzheimer’s Association leads the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia – by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. Visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900.

Scott Finley is Media Relations Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association® in Texas.  He can be reached at scfinley@alz.org