Coronavirus restrictions continue to be lifted now that most adults in the UK have received vaccinations and pressure on the NHS has decreased. However, keeping safe and minimizing risk will always be important for people with dementia.
COVID-19: How to stay safe
Coronavirus vaccination offers the best protection against COVID-19. In addition to strong protection for you, the vaccine helps prevent the spread of Coronavirus to others. In the case of newer variants of the virus, a single dose will only provide limited protection, so it is very important to have both doses.
It’s still imperative that you keep yourself and others safe, even after getting both vaccines against Coronavirus. There will likely be a large increase in the amount of virus spread throughout the community as people begin mixing more over the coming weeks and months.
People in the UK are being advised to remain cautious and act responsibly. England has, however, removed all legal restrictions. Face covering is no longer a legal requirement everywhere. Yet there may still be a requirement to enter some places, such as on public transport in London, Scotland, and Wales. You can still wear a mask if you wish to, despite the lifting of legal restrictions.
Even after social distancing measures are loosened, Coronavirus is still in circulation, including easily transmissible strains. In crowds and when meeting other people, it is still important to be cautious to reduce the risk of getting or spreading Coronavirus.
Coronavirus guidance with dementia
Dementia makes this more difficult. A person may not understand what guidance means, or they may forget how to remain safe.
Describe the guidance clearly in a calm manner to the person. Consider our suggestions for effective communication. Perhaps mentioning that the advice is from the NHS, GP, or someone the person trusts can help. By following the guidelines, Coronavirus rates are likely to remain low thus fewer people become seriously ill.
During the time you are with the person, you may need to reiterate this information to remind them why they should follow the guidelines.
Assisting the person in feeling confident about getting out
Everyone can now go out more as there are no restrictions on exercising or leaving the house. Many people with dementia enjoy walking, and physical exercise is good for all of us.
During the pandemic, many individuals living with dementia lost skills or independence. Staying active helps those living with dementia maintain their independence. By doing so, they can regain the skills and motivation that they may have lost during the lockdown.
You might find it helpful to:
- Rather than focusing on what they can’t do, encourage the person to rebuild their confidence by focusing on what they can do
- To ease the person back into their former favourite activities, support them in returning to them. This might require adjusting the way they do things, or reducing the time they spend doing them
- Help them to go at a pace that is most comfortable for them.
While out and about, however, it is important to follow the safety guidelines and minimise the risk of injury.
You might also find the following suggestions helpful:
- By placing a simple poster near the front door, they’ll be reminded to carry a face shield when necessary (unless exempt) and to be careful in crowded places
- Consider using assistive technology, such as a device that plays an automated reminder that you can customise, telling you the pandemic is still ongoing and that you need to use caution when outdoors
- Walking in quieter areas and at quieter times.
Maintaining an active lifestyle
In addition, you and the person you care for should stay:
- Taking part in physical activity – whether indoors or outdoors
- Engaging mentally – by trying a new activity (online or off), or learning a new skill
- Stay in touch with your friends and family to stay socially active.
Engage the person in choosing what you do at home and in the community. Activities should be enjoyable, meaningful, and tailored to a person’s interests and preferences. Feelings of stress, anxiety, and low mood can also be eased by physical exercise and having a sense of purpose.
Maintaining good hygiene
To prevent Coronavirus from spreading, it is still important to keep hands clean and follow good respiratory hygiene. Examples include:
- It is recommended that you wash your hands often with soap and water (or, if this is not possible, you must use a hand sanitiser)
- If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands.
- Dispose of used tissues as soon as possible
- Keep your hands away from your face.
The importance of handwashing cannot be overstated. When you come home from being outside or shopping, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and before you eat or handle food, wash your hands. As soon as you arrive at work and as soon as you leave, wash your hands.
Alzheimer’s patients may not be able to remember how to take care of themselves if they have memory problems or are confused.
Encourage them to stay safe by following these tips:
- You can hang reminder signs or posters near hand basins.
- Set reminders such as: “Time to wash your hands.” using digital devices.
- Encourage the person by washing your hands together.
- You can simplify the task if this makes it easier for them to follow.
- Talk to the person while handwashing to find out how this makes them feel
- Observing what’s going on around the person can help with anxiety.
- Instead of criticising errors, offer encouragement and praise.
If a person is not familiar with liquid soap, it may be helpful to use a traditional soap bar in a colour different from the sink.
Hand moisturisers and barrier creams will help keep skin healthy if you wash or use hand sanitiser more frequently.
It is much easier to spread Coronavirus inside than outside. When someone in the household has a Coronavirus or someone is visiting, it’s especially important to ensure that the indoor spaces have a supply of fresh air.
The easiest way to get fresh air is to open the windows, as long as it is safe for you to do so without cooling the room too much. Make sure any vents or grilles on the top of your windows are open.
The availability of medicines
Each member of the household must have the necessary medication to remain healthy.
Repeat prescriptions should be available to you, or the person you care for, through your GP surgery or a pharmacy as they were before the restrictions.
You can order repeat prescriptions online if you can – or have someone who you trust do it for you – if you do not feel comfortable going out for now. For help or if you cannot order online, contact your GP surgery or local pharmacy. They may offer a delivery service to assist you.
If you don’t live with the person
Ensure the person with dementia knows how much help is available if you live apart from them. You should know who to contact if they don’t have a plan. Put important contact information near the phone. You can also:
- Find local community support groups.
- Stay in touch with them if you or they are isolating themselves or minimizing social contact. Social media platforms such as Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom allow people to stay in touch via video calls. This approach isn’t for everyone. Instead of using these tools, you could call, text, write letters, or post family photos. Establishing regular times and days for calls can give a person structure and something to anticipate. Connecting with the person will make them feel loved and may keep you in their thoughts. Their feelings of sadness and loneliness will be reduced if they feel connected to you.
- Discuss scams with the individual. They need to be informed about the scams involving Coronavirus so that they know what to look out for.