How strange life is for us all, not just here in the UK, but around most of the world too. Deserted streets, empty shopping centres and padlocks on children’s playgrounds, our daily routine changed beyond recognition.
It is this routine that the majority of people find gives them a sense of security and purpose. People feel more confident with familiar faces and regular tasks during their daily schedule. The daily drive to the workplace, meeting colleagues and friends, visits to the pub or restaurant etc. halted for most. With this shutdown of normality, many of us feel rather lost, anxious and fearful of the future.
How much more so then for people with dementia? They often live in a world full of ‘strangers’ and unfamiliarity. What if they are living in a care home and the staff suddenly appear wearing face masks and gowns? Family members no longer visit. Trips in a minibus stop. People in the home step away from them when walking down the corridor.
For those caring for anyone who has dementia either at home or in a care home, here are a few hints to help keep both them and their carers safe and stress-free.
- Try to explain about the changes in simple terms i.e.; that there is flu going round and no one wants to be ill. You may need to do this regularly. Keep your voice calm at all times.
- You may need to remind them to wash their hands before meals, after using the toilet etc. Make it fun by singing ‘Daisy, Daisy’ (which is around 20 seconds long) along with them.
- Remember to keep up with their medication, many people with dementia also have other health issues and could have an adverse effect if they contract the virus.
- Try to keep to the same waking, dressing and especially mealtime routine as much as possible. Our body clocks are hard-wired into us and this is the same for everyone. If a meal is going to be later than usual, try to give the person a drink first to help stave off any hunger pangs.
- Encourage the person to find comfort in a cuddly cushion, soft pet or doll to help soothe when they are feeling anxious. Keep this item exclusively for one person to use and wash regularly if possible.
- Play some upbeat music to encourage reminiscence to happier times from the past and sing along to the words. There are many with short medleys that are ideally suited to limited memory spans.
- Often, people with dementia can have restless fingers and will ‘paw’ at their clothes, give them a hand-held activity that they can ‘fidget’ with to keep them occupied safely. Ensure it is only used exclusively by that person and that it is fully washable.
- If you can, try to walk them outside in a garden daily for a change of scenery, fresh air and to stretch their legs. If this is not possible, play a gentle exercise DVD and do it yourself to encourage them to join in. Give them a floaty scarf to wave about to make it extra fun.
Dementia UK has further great advice, which you can find here: