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Caring for loved ones with dementia during coronavirus pandemic

Springfield (MO) KYTV logo Springfield (MO) KYTV 3/29/2020 Christine Morton
© Provided by Springfield (MO) KYTV

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Right now, because of the coronavirus pandemic, life can be filled with constant safety concerns regarding our health, high levels of stress and possible family separation.

While this is a difficult time for everyone, it can be particularly difficult for those living with Alzheimer's, dementia and their loved ones who care for them.

"Continue your normal routine as much as you can, keeping safety as a priority," said Kristen Hilty.

Kristen Hilty works for the Alzheimer's Association in the Ozarks, helping those diagnosed with the disease and their loved ones.

Hilty says a big challenge right now is the work of the caregiver's since dementia patients can't follow directions well or repeat them, especially when it comes to good hygiene practices.

"We are encouraging our caregivers to model those hand-washing behaviors, maybe even go to the sink and wash your hands at the same time for the appropriate amount of time," said Hilty.

Hilty says they are not recommending caregivers constantly remind their loved ones with dementia about the pandemic. She says you could retraumatize someone every time you bring it up.

"Certainly you can explain anything unusual that they see like if they see someone come in their home and wearing a mask," said Hilty.

Hilty is also suggesting caregivers plan ahead, in case they get sick. She recommends calling all of your friends and family members who might be able to support you if you were unable to provide care.

"Beware that some of the agencies and services that you come to depend on like long term care facilities, adult day centers, even in-home help, their services may be restricted or they may not be available at all," said Hilty.

And if your loved one is in a long term care facility, Hilty says communication is key right now.

"In our area, those facilities are probably on lockdown and not allowing visitors we encourage families to be in close contact with the facility to make sure you know what those alternatives are for communicating with your loved one whether it be by video conference, by telephone call or even by email," said Hilty.

Hilty says to make sure those facilities also have two emergency contact numbers, one for the main caregiver and one as a back up just in case you were to get sick.

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