Recent months have been a challenge for everyone. For the over 1,700 people living with dementia in Meath, and their families, it has been especially difficult.
Many have been cocooning or staying at home to minimise the risk of contracting COVID-19. To protect people with dementia from COVID-19, some of our services had to be changed, and they may also have been missing important social connections and activities so crucial for wellbeing.
As society and healthcare services start to return to normal, and we begin to enjoy the things we missed, for people with dementia and their carers this too brings challenges. Upheaval and changes in the person’s condition and routines may make some people with dementia more reluctant to return to community life.
Every one of us can play our part in reaching out to, and supporting, people with dementia and their carers, as together we navigate a new way forward.
Here’s how you can help:
- Make contact safely. Though we all need to protect ourselves and each other, staying connected is important in supporting people with dementia, their carers and families. If you’re planning a visit, agree the time in advance. Take your cues from the person you’re meeting and be prepared for a short visit.
- Do an activity together. Whether it’s enjoying a craft activity, joining in an online sing-along or spending time gardening – engaging and enjoyable activities are vital for mental stimulation and physical wellbeing.
- Offer to help. While there are times allocated by retailers for older people, the medically vulnerable and carers to shop, some people may still be reluctant or unable to get out. Offering to do the groceries or other errands could give the carer a well-earned break.
When visiting a friend or family member who is at greater risk from COVID-19 in an indoor location or where social distancing is difficult, you should wear a face covering. Seeing you with a face covering could, however, be confusing for a person with dementia. Try showing your face from a two-metre distance or through a window before you put the face covering on and explain why you’re wearing it. A face covering in a cheerful or favourite colour can also help.
If you haven’t seen a family member or friend with dementia for a while, the person’s condition may have changed. That is all the more reason to make the connection and to help bring joy into each other’s lives.
The HSE’s Dementia: Understand Together campaign has a range of resources to support people with dementia during COVID-19 including an At Home Activities booklet and Weekly Activity Planner available at www.understandtogether.ie.
For information and support on dementia, Freephone 1800 341 341 (Monday to Friday 10am-5pm & Saturday 10am-4pm).
For the latest health information, including how to make and wear face coverings, and how to protect yourself and others, visit www.hse.ie.
It may be a different world right now, but together we can make it a better one.
Dr Suzanne Timmons
HSE National Dementia Office
Block 6, Central Business Park