How to preserve routines for people who have Alzheimer’s during the coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting life for millions upon millions of people across the nation, but it can be especially disruptive to people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

The New York-based Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is offering tips to family caregivers on how they can help a loved one who is struggling with Alzheimer’s adapt to changes caused by coronavirus.

For a person who has Alzheimer’s, changes in daily routines can lead to anxiety, confusion, agitation and discomfort, according to an AFA news release.

“There is often comfort in the familiar,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President & CEO. “As we all adjust to the ‘new normal’ created by the coronavirus outbreak, caregivers should know about steps they can take to adapt routines and help their loved ones stay calm and comfortable.”

Caregivers can take the following steps to help a loved one who has Alzheimer’s adapt to changes caused by the pandemic:

  • Maintaining schedules: If your loved one is used to getting up, eating meals and going to bed at set times, stick to that schedule as much as possible.
  • Bringing outside destinations inside: If the person regularly eats at a favorite restaurant every Sunday, order in from that restaurant or cook a favorite dish they like to order.
  • Keeping the person active: Many adult day and respite care programs are closed to protect public health but doing similar activities at home can be beneficial. If the person normally goes to a program at a certain time, do activities that he or she would usually do during that time period (i.e. listen to music, dance, exercise). AFA is also offering these types of programs “virtually” through the Internet (visit AFA’s Facebook page to see videos of virtual community programs).
  • Remaining connected: Use FaceTime, phone calls or text messages to keep the person connected with family and friends who would normally visit them in person. If someone calls or FaceTimes with the person regularly because they live out of town, try to keep the contact during the usual time slot.
  • Utilizing familiarity: Surrounding the person with familiar and positive items, food, music and clothing can be comforting and help reduce potential anxiety and stress. The more familiarity, the better.
  • Being supportive: Your own body language and attitude can influence the behavior of the person for whom you are caring. Remaining calm and attentive and showing the person love and care can help them adapt to the changes.
  • Creating a daily schedule with lots of visual cues (photos, stickers, drawings). Create a regular schedule of what the person will be doing every hour, or every half hour, and review it with them and revisit it regularly.

If you need additional tips about adapting routines, caregiving during the coronavirus outbreak and more, contact the AFA Helpline by dialing (866) 232-8484 or visiting www.alzfdn.org and clicking the blue and white chat icon in the right hand corner of the page.

The Helpline is entirely comprised of licensed social workers trained in dementia care. The Helpline is open seven days a week.

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