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Caring for a loved one during these uncertain stay-at-home times


Coronavirus—don’t panic!

By Phyllis DeLaricheliere, MS

There is so much news swirling around every day with hourly updates, new restrictions, and protocols concerning the pandemic that I thought I would give you a few tips to help keep your loved ones with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia as safe as possible during these uncertain times. Remember, always consult your physician if you have ANY questions and continue to follow the CDC and State official recommendations.

If they are in a community or facility:

  • Refrain from visitation at this time! I know this may be difficult, but it is imperative that the communities limit the risk and keep your loved ones and the staff that cares for them safe.
  • Drop off goodies if you like at the facility, and they will surely enjoy them.
  • Lots of facilities have set up Skype, so FaceTime with your loved ones to reassure you that they are fine.
  • Do NOT take them out; the staff will make sure they get their fresh air, and the risk of taking them out is truly not worth it to your loved one.

If they are at home:

  • Depending on the type of dementia, and/or whether or not they are aware, will dictate if you should have a conversation with them about what is happening in the world.
  • Do your very best to wipe down all surfaces in the home: counters, bathrooms, doorknobs, bed, kitchen.
  • Make sure they wash their hands all the time, as they are not necessarily aware of what they are doing and how many times they need to do it.
  • More importantly, keep yourself safe by washing your hands constantly. Avoid bodily fluids by wearing gloves when giving care or cleaning up after meals. Gloves are one step to protection, but change them after each event and wash hands immediately.
  • If your loved one is demonstrating symptoms of a virus, do the best you can to have them wear a mask. A mask on yourself does NOT protect you (it might make you feel better, but it’s a placebo). Placing a mask ON the symptoms is what stops the spread.  However, your loved one might continually pull it off, so this needs to be monitored carefully.
  • Avoid visits from outside unless it’s medical personnel, and, as a caregiver, limit your exposure.
  • Utilize the shopping times that are given to keep you and your loved one safe.
  • Use drive-ups for medicine, dry cleaning, etc.
  • The elderly at times do NOT show fever, and, with dementia, they cannot express discomfort or describe symptoms. Watch for changes. Take their temperature.
  • Monitor yourself—we often forget about ourselves.
  • Utilize this time to get things organized and let your loved one help. Play music in the house, try to get some fresh air, dance like no one is watching. In other words, take this time to embrace the moment. Life’s pace has slowed, and that does not happen very often.

Stay safe, and please don’t panic. Reach out to others and chat. Monitor how much news you take in on a daily basis, and how much your loved one at home is exposed to. We need to take this COVID-19 crisis one day at a time, and, with Dementia/Alzheimer’s, that’s what we are already accustomed to doing.

Phyllis DeLaricheliere, MS, has made a career working with seniors for more than 15 years. She is the recipient of a National Award of Excellence for her monthly column, Ask the Hippie, awarded by the North AmericanLayout 1 Mature Publishers Association in the category of Senior Issues. She is a sought after speaker/educator/author and is excited about her new soon-to-be-punished book, Embracing the Journey: Knowing your Inner Hippie. To book Phyllis for a lecture or to join her pre-published waitlist for her book, email her at knowyourhippie@gmail.com, or call 802-999-7503.