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Dementia care during COVID-19

New York Teacher

For those caring for a loved one with dementia, the coronavirus pandemic makes an already challenging situation even more difficult.

Dementia is caused by abnormal brain changes that trigger a decline in cognitive abilities severe enough to impair daily life. Dementia covers a wide range of medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. An estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages were living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2019–20, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

People with dementia have difficulty thinking clearly, communicating, remembering things and taking care of themselves. They may have mood swings or experience personality changes. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to take your loved one to the doctor for a comprehensive exam.

People living with dementia will benefit from extra reminders about hygiene during the pandemic. Consider posting signs in the bathroom and the kitchen to remind them to wash their hands for 20 seconds and model a thorough, 20-second hand-washing. Leave hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol around the house for times when hand-washing is not convenient.

Be prepared for cancellations in adult day care or other programs you use and have a backup plan. Also have a backup plan in case you, the caregiver, become ill.

If you receive outside assistance in the home, discuss COVID-19 protocols with the outside caregiver and follow the guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outside caregiver should not enter your home if they have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for the virus. Take their temperature before they enter your home. They should not come in if their temperature is over 100.4 degrees. Outside caregivers should wash their hands upon entering and throughout their stay and always wear a mask.

If your loved one is in a long-term care or residential facility, review the CDC’s guidelines for care online.

Whatever your caregiving situation, remember to accept support. If you would like a safe, virtual space to share your thoughts and feelings, the UFT’s Member Assistance Program is offering a general support group.

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The UFT Member Assistance Program offers short-term counseling and outside referrals to help you deal with a wide range of issues. You can contact MAP by calling 212-701-9620 or by emailing mapinfo@uft.org. Appointments and referrals are available Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 50 Broadway in Manhattan.