Navigating the COVID-19 Reopening Process: Tips for Families Affected by Alzheimer’s Disease
As states around the country open up after months of prolonged isolation due to COVID-19, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing tips to families affected by Alzheimer’s disease about how to protect their loved ones during the reopening process.
“Months of prolonged isolation understandably are making all of us eager to get out and about, but it’s important to remember that even though things are starting to reopen, COVID-19 has not disappeared,” said Allison B. Reiss, MD, a member of AFA’s Medical, Scientific and Memory Screening Advisory Board, Head of the Inflammation Laboratory at NYU Winthrop Hospital’s Biomedical Research Institute, and Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU Long Island School of Medicine. “Individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related illnesses have memory impairments that affect their ability to remember things like hand washing, social distancing or wearing a mask. Because of this, family caregivers will need to continue taking steps to keep their loved one as safe and healthy as possible.”
AFA recommends the following measures:
Reinforce preventive steps: Continuing protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help protect against the virus, such as washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing the nose, is vital. Because Alzheimer’s impacts memory, someone living with it may need to be repeatedly reminded and helped with these procedures. Steps caregivers can take to encourage handwashing include:
- Explain what to do slowly, step by step.
- Use a fragranced soap, such as lavender, to improve the person’s sensory experience.
- Speak in a soothing tone.
Spend time outdoors (safely). Walking, exercising or even just being out in the yard are all good for the body (as long as you practice appropriate social distancing and wear masks when around others). Sunlight is also a great source of vitamin D, which can help strengthen the body’s immune system.
Watch what you eat. Maintain a balanced, nutritious diet with fewer processed, high-salt or high-sugar foods. Good hydration is also important, as is adequate vitamin D and C, both of which may help boost immunity.
Limit exposure. Avoid taking the person to grocery stores, restaurants or other large public gatherings. Because COVID-19 is spread when individuals are in close proximity with one another, your risk of contracting coronavirus increases as you are around more people. Limit the number of outside visitors who come into your home to lessen the chances of exposure. Many doctors are utilizing telemedicine and video visits to see patients. This is another good option to avoid having to travel to in-person care sites. These visits can be done with a family member or proxy present.
Families who have questions about caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can speak with a licensed social worker, seven days a week, through AFA’s Helpline. Connect with the Helpline by:
- Calling 866-232-8484
- Visiting www.alzfdn.org and clicking on the blue and white chat icon in the corner of the page
- Sending a text message to 646-586-5283