Caring for someone with dementia living at home
For information and resources on caring for someone living at home during COVID-19, please explore the below pages:
Maintaining physical distancing protocols during visits
People living with dementia may have difficulty with the concepts of physical distancing. They may forget these practices are required or they may not have the logic or judgment skills to enable them to see the severity of the current situation or the need for safe distances.
If it is essential to visit a family member during this time, be extra diligent to maintain safe physical distancing and take action to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Try to prevent all unnecessary physical contact, including hugs or shaking hands. It can be incredibly hard not to give affection to the people we care about, especially if you are normally accustomed to physical contact, but this is a key piece in preventing the spread of the virus.
- Put your hand out and say, “Stop” to prevent physical contact, then gently explain that you don’t want to risk spreading the illness. What you say and how much you say will depend on the person’s knowledge, understanding and memory of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- If the person is unaware of the COVID-19 pandemic it may be enough to say, “Mom, I’m worried I might give you a cold.”
- If the person has knowledge of current events, consider what response will give them the most reassurance and sense of safety. You could say, “Dad, I want to make sure that we both stay healthy, so I’d like to suggest we take all necessary precautions to keep us both safe.”
- Try to only touch what is necessary to do the task you are there to do. Ensure that you clean every surface and item you touch before and after using, including light switches and door handles.
- If asking the person to repeatedly wash their hands is causing them stress, ask them to help you with a task that will require them to put their hands in soapy water. You could say: “Mom, since I can only be here for a few minutes today, let’s try and get some things done together. We could start by washing up the dishes. If you wash, I will dry.”
- If an in-home visit is necessary, only one person should be visiting. Identifying a back-up person is also useful in case the first caregiver becomes ill.
Home support worker visits
Many non-essential in-home care services have been scaled back during COVID-19 but there are individuals who would be at risk if they were not to receive home care. Minimum essential care levels will have to remain in place for many people.
Home support workers are well trained in procedures to minimize the transmission of infectious disease; however, many people may still have anxiety around welcoming external people into the home.
- You can ask about the organization’s infection control protocol and ask workers to wash their hands or take other appropriate measures upon entering the home.
- Consult with case managers and doctors to assess the risk and determine the need for home care during the current situation.
- Primary caregivers in the home will benefit from learning about caregiving strategies and receiving support if the need for them to take on care responsibilities increases, and our period of physical distancing/isolation continues.
Keeping in contact with loved ones from a distance
It can be incredibly difficult to not be allowed to maintain regular visits with your loved one, but there are many alternative modes of communication to keep in touch.
- Stay in contact with family and friends over the phone, and if you can, make use of face-to-face technology such as FaceTime or Skype.
- If the person living with dementia is more confused or tired at certain times of the day try to schedule calls when they will be alert and engaged.
- If there are times of the day when they become anxious or agitated, try to schedule calls at a time when the person may need reassurance.
Consider contacting the First Link® Dementia Helpline for information and support. In addition to crucial emotional support and a listening ear, callers can access information about living with dementia during COVID-19 including practical strategies on a variety of topics, such as behavioural and communication challenges.
- English: 1-800-936-6033 (9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday)
- Punjabi: 1-833-674-5003 (9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday)
- Cantonese or Mandarin: 1-833-674-5007 (9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday)
Further support is available through our webinars, which are held every week. Register for our upcoming webinars on our website or explore our recorded videos which are available 24/7 to learn about many more topics related to caregiving for a person living with dementia. Previous topics that may be of particular help include:
- Accessing care services during COVID-19 (also available as a handout)
- Activities to do at home
- Caregiving during COVID-19
- Managing responsive behaviours in a rapidly changing environment
- Staying healthy in a time of change and uncertainty
- Why do I feel this way? Coping with the changes brought by dementia