This year has brought many challenges to us, and has increased the challenging responsibilities of caregivers because of the current pandemic. People who care for people with dementia (PWD) often juggle households, work and caregiving responsibilities on a daily basis. It is important to handle these tasks with grace and patience, as this will help you through your caregiving journey.

As we know, older adults and people with serious underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to public health and clinical experts. With that being said, older adults also have the highest rates of dementia. Currently, almost 6 million adults have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

If you care for someone living with dementia, it is important that you know what you can do to protect yourself and others during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a caregiver, it is essential to help you manage your loved one’s physical and mental well-being as well as your own. By taking steps to care for one’s self, it helps make caregiving a bit easier in the end.

It is recommended that you follow guidelines that have been implemented, for your safety and your loved one. Persons living with dementia may not understand the guidelines, or remember what they are, so it is up to us to help them, as much as possible. Caregivers have made small signs/posters as a reminder to wash hands, and place them around the house, in hopes that preventative measure will happen more frequently. As a caregiver, it may mean that you put the mask on in front of the person you are caring for, so that they can see your face, and are not puzzled as to who you are. The person may exhibit fear or anxiety with caregivers wearing a mask, and it is most likely that the person will not wear one on their own. As caregivers, we need to keep things around the home as clean and sanitized as possible, as we cannot expect the person we are helping to not touch objects, or maintain recommended physical distancing.

If your loved one has dementia and needs to be hospitalized for COVID-19, ensure that the staff know how to best communicate with your loved one, or that you may need to stay in order to convey important health information. If you, as a caregiver contract COVID-19, follow guidance in place and have a backup caregiver for your loved one. Watch for changes in behavior, as that may be an indication of COVID-19 in your loved one.

As a caregiver during this difficult time, take time to unwind and do activities that you enjoy, if even for a brief time. Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch and meditate. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and the community stronger.

Teresa Clement is a Board Member for the Dementia Friendly Community Coalition of Marinette County. If you are interested in more information, please call the ADRC at 715-732-3850.