The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alzheimer’s Association propose several actions to increase the quality of life for people with cognitive impairment. Two such action items are:
- Increase public awareness about dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, to reduce conflicting messages, decrease stigma, and promote early diagnosis.
- Improve how to communicate effectively and sensitively with people suffering from dementia and their families.
Stigmas and misconceptions associated with Alzheimer’s disease are widespread and profoundly impact the care provided to — and the isolation felt by — people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. People with dementia are often isolated, or hidden, because of stigma or the possibility of negative reactions from neighbors and relatives to behavioral and psychological symptoms. The idea that nothing can be done to help people with dementia often leads to hopelessness and frustration.
Lehigh Valley residents will have a hard time forgetting the past year or so, with snow, societal upheavals, politics, and pandemics. We have become jittery about a lot of things we used to take lightly, like a cough or headache — “Do I have COVID?” As we age, we also might become a bit forgetful, and that makes us nervous, too — “I forgot my car keys. Do I have Alzheimer’s?”
Some measure of forgetfulness is common in older folks. When we try to learn new things, our brains may feel like Teflon or saturated sponges. We can find it hard to remember certain . . . uh . . . words or names. Your glasses may seem to relocate on their own, along with a dozen other common items. These may not be signs of serious memory problems, but it doesn’t hurt to look into the situation and take steps to keep your memory sharp.
At some point, people with Alzheimer’s disease will need help bathing, combing their hair, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed. Because these are private activities, people may not want help. They may feel embarrassed about being naked in front of caregivers. They also may feel angry about not being able to care for themselves. These suggestions may help with everyday care.
The Lehigh Valley has bid goodbye to another year. The holidays are past, the New Year resolutions have been broken, and holiday visitation, such as it may have been, is over. COVID-19 restrictions may have made it difficult to visit family and friends in care communities, which can take an emotional effort to begin with. After the fuss of the holidays, people with Alzheimer’s can feel especially lonely, a feeling magnified by the weirdness of the current pandemic and its conditions.
According to a recent survey, almost half of the public thinks it’s pointless to keep in contact with dementia patients who cannot recognize familiar faces or remember anything “meaningful.” With current visitation restrictions in place, it is easier to become complacent about visiting your loved ones. This is a sad state of affairs because, although memories of events may fade, they can still feel and remember feelings long after events. Post-holiday blues can affect people with Alzheimer’s as well so this is not the time to neglect them.
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.