As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to haunt the Lehigh Valley, many caregivers, whether personal or working in memory care communities, are concerned about how this situation affects their caregiving. South Mountain Memory Care’s top priority is the safety of residents, visitors, and staff. Understanding your concerns, we share the following advice from the Centers for Disease Control.
Given the risks that older adults face from both COVID-19 and dementia, CDC is providing this additional guidance to caregivers of adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to help them manage their patients’ physical and mental wellbeing, as well as their own wellbeing. For people living with dementia, changes in behavior or worsening symptoms of dementia should be evaluated because they can be an indication of worsening stress and anxiety as well as COVID-19 or other infections.
If you care for someone living with dementia, it’s important that you know what you can do to protect yourself and others during the COVID-19 pandemic and what additional steps you can take to protect your loved one:
- Know when you need to seek medical attention for your loved one.
- Call a healthcare provider if your loved one has symptoms of COVID-19.
- Be aware that older adults with COVID-19 may not always have typical symptoms, such as a fever or cough.
- Use CDC’s Self-Checker guide to help make decisions about your loved one and know when to seek appropriate medical care.
If your loved one has advanced dementia and needs to be hospitalized for COVID-19, make sure hospital staff know your in-person assistance might be required to communicate important health information and emergency support. Here are several important issues to consider:
- Be prepared to be in a healthcare setting with your loved one. Use personal protective measures as recommended by the hospital staff.
- Be aware that you and healthcare providers may face difficulties caring for your loved one because he or she:
- may not cooperate with care and may not follow personal protective measures.
- may refuse diagnostic procedures.
In this case, do as much as you can, or as much as you are allowed to, to help the person living with advanced dementia to follow CDC guidance.
- If you get sick, follow CDC guidance and have a backup caregiver for your loved one.
- Incorporate CDC guidance into your daily routine and the daily routine of your loved one:
- Wear masks and make sure that others wear them.
- Do NOT place a mask on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, is incapacitated, or is unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Wash hands often.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Caregivers: Be Aware of the Symptoms for COVID-19
The first step in caring for people living with dementia in any setting is to understand that changes in behavior or worsening symptoms of dementia should be evaluated because they can be an indication of COVID-19 infection or worsening stress and anxiety. Not everyone with COVID-19 has symptoms, but when people with dementia do have COVID-19 symptoms, they can include the following:
- increased agitation
- increased confusion
- sudden sadness
- difficulty breathing
- repeated shaking with chills
- muscle pain
- sore throat
- new loss of taste or smell
Caregivers Can Be First Responders Under Stress: Know How to Take Care of Yourself
As a caregiver, you provide care to people who need some degree of ongoing assistance with everyday tasks on a regular basis. During this pandemic, you may also be a first responder, providing the first line of response and defense to your loved one living with dementia. First responders often experience stress due to heavy workloads, fatigue, and other situations that come with an emergency. There are important steps you should take during and after an emergency event to help manage and cope with stress. To take care of others, you must be feeling well and thinking clearly. Here are some tips on how to take care of yourself:
- Eat a healthy diet, avoid using drugs and alcohol, and get plenty of sleep and regular exercise to help reduce stress and anxiety. Activities as simple as taking a walk, stretching, and deep breathing, can help relieve stress.
- Establish and maintain a routine. Try to eat meals at regular times, and put yourself on a sleep schedule to ensure you get enough rest. Include a positive or fun activity in your schedule that you can look forward to each day or week. If possible, schedule exercise into your daily routine.
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. If you want to stay up-to-date on the pandemic, visit CDC’s website for the latest recommendations on what you can do to protect yourself and those you care for.
South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care. The brand new building is a stand-alone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff, and programs are designed to serve residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites. South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and it is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. For more information, go to southmountainmemorycare.com/.