World Alzheimer's Day 2020: COVID-19 and Alzheimer's Disease- Tips For Caregivers From Expert
World Alzheimer's Day: The day is observed on September 21. Read here to know how to take care of a person with Alzheimer's disease during COVID-19 pandemic.
Alzheimer's Day: Try establishing a new routine and help Alzheimer's patient adjust to it
- Caregivers should ensure Alzheimer's patient takes necessary precautions
- They should be reminded of COVID-19 preventive measures
- World Alzheimer's Day: The patients should have a set routine
World Alzheimer's Day 2020: The coronavirus has impacted all aspects of our lives and a major change that the pandemic has brought about is concerning our normal routines. This is true for people living with certain health conditions including Alzheimer's and dementia. For people with these cognitive disorders, a pandemic and its effects can be devastating. Even if they do not acquire the condition, managing Alzheimer's patient, and making them adhere to protocols can be a challenging experience for caregivers.
COVID-19 is highly contagious and the common symptoms include fever, dry cough, loss of smell or taste, and shortness of breath in some. In case an Alzheimer's patient is infected, they are more likely to develop a more severe and dangerous illness. Although there is no accurate data or study to substantiate the effects of the virus on such patients, old age and certain associated illnesses can increase the risk of mortality and morbidity. Apart from this, with age, the body's immune system is also compromised. As per a recent report, about 80% of all COVID-19 deaths in the US were among those who were 65 years or older. Further, the rate of severe outcomes was the highest in people who were 85 and above.
COVID-19 and Alzheimer's Disease: Other issues
Given that dementia patients suffer from memory loss and increased confusion, it can become difficult for them to stick to a regular daily routine - an integral aspect of their care. Any disruption to this routine can have profound effects on their behaviour as well. For instance, the new normal has increased stress levels in many patients. They experience memory loss and therefore, forgetting why they cannot go anywhere can further exacerbate the situation. This can further cause problems such as pacing, picking at their skin, compulsive outlets, sadness and loneliness (especially in those who are away from family), anger and frustration at the constant need to wear masks, etc. The cognitive impairment in Alzheimer's can also make it difficult for patients to protect themselves. They may not understand the risk associated with COVID-19, remember that there is a pandemic, or not wash their hands, wear a mask, and take the other recommended precautions. All this can make them further vulnerable to the infection as also increase caregiver burden.
World Alzheimer's Day 2020: Tips for caregivers
There are some things that caregivers can do to ensure that patients with Alzheimer's are comfortable during the pandemic.
- Try establishing a new routine and help them adjust to it. For patients who are used to going out once or twice a day, they can either be taken to the yard outside for lunch or snack time. It is also a good idea to take them for a walk around the block but with all precautions in place.
- Be patient with them and show empathy. Try to help them understand the situation in a way they can comprehend and respond to their questions on an emotional level.
- Patients with dementia often have trouble comprehending. You can help by reassuring them that they are safe. Focus on positive things to help ease their anxiety.
- In all this, take out some time for yourself. This will be much needed if you want to stay on top of your own mental and physical health. While the patients may not be able to comprehend the pandemic situation, they will surely be responsive to your stress levels.
- Patients with dementia may also have language problems or aphasia. This means they may not be able to remember what you have said or tell you how they are feeling clearly. However, their emotional memory is longstanding. Be mindful of your tone while speaking to them.
Dealing with an Alzheimer's patient can often be akin to handling children. In terms of their mental and emotional state, they are as fragile; and their physical health is compromised due to low immunity. The need of the hour is to ensure that you help them take precautions, build their immunity levels, and show empathy and compassion.
(Dr Vishal Sehgal is Medical Director at Portea Medical)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
DoctorNDTV is the one stop site for all your health needs providing the most credible health information, health news and tips with expert advice on healthy living, diet plans, informative videos etc. You can get the most relevant and accurate info you need about health problems like diabetes, cancer, pregnancy, HIV and AIDS, weight loss and many other lifestyle diseases. We have a panel of over 350 experts who help us develop content by giving their valuable inputs and bringing to us the latest in the world of healthcare.