My heart goes out to all those whose loved one has dementia in this harrowing coronavirus season

I can’t imagine how difficult this season must be for those whose loved one has dementia, whether they are in a care home and you cannot see them, or if you are caring for them at home, with all the additional challenges this pandemic crisis brings on top of what you were already facing.

If you are caring for your loved one at home, Dementia Australia has written a help sheet – https://www.dementia.org.au/resources/coronavirus-covid-19-helpsheets/tips-for-carers-families-and-friends-of-people-living-with-dementia

If your loved one is in a home, I can understand just a little of what you are facing. When my parents were in a care home, there was an outbreak of norovirus (a stomach bug) which prevented me from visiting them for about a month. I must confess it brought about mixed emotions. I was committed to taking the hour drive to visit every week and, although difficult and emotionally tiring to see them deteriorating, it was a such a precious opportunity to spend time with my mum and dad. In the ‘month off’, part of me was quite relieved for the break but that feeling of relief, in turn, produced guilt. The other part of me missed them and was concerned with how they were doing without my regular visits. Also in the back of my mind, was the question of how they experienced time in their declined cognitive minds and did they even realise I wasn’t there.

I still follow the care home where my parents were on Facebook, and yesterday they posted that they have moved to a ‘shelter in place’ plan which means there are no visitors allowed except on compassionate grounds. I feel so sad for you, the families affected all over the world in this way. I also feel such respect for the staff in the homes providing the care in this horrific time.

There have been posts of staff holding an iPad for a resident while they ‘visit’ with their loved one and another resident reading a letter from family. It’s helpful we have the technology to stay connected in this day and age.

If you find yourself in this position of not being able to physically visit your loved one with dementia in this time, here are some ideas, depending on which stage they are in:

  • FaceTime, WhatsApp or Skype – perhaps email/call the staff to find out a good time when a staff member would be available to sit and help your loved one with the technology.
  • Send a video – arrange with staff the best way to get it to your loved one.
  • Send some photos in the mail with a letter, particularly if they are at the stage when it is difficult to communicate on the phone.
  • Send a gift that would be meaningful to them.
  • Send a list they can put on their wall to remind them about all the things you’d like them to remember at this time. It might be all the ways you love them, all the names and photos of the family, or answers to questions they ask over and over which shows they are concerned about that particular issue.
  • If they have faith, Elisa at Spiritual Eldercare has a church service video they can watch – https://spiritualeldercare.com/2020/03/26/online-church-service-for-isolated-elders/.
  • If you have children, ask them to draw a picture for your loved one and send that in to them.
  • Encourage the staff who are caring for your loved one – this season will be extra difficult for them too. Perhaps send them in some chocolates or flowers and a card expressing your gratitude for all they do to care for your loved one.

If you have other ideas, please share below for others in the community.

Take care and stay well. I pray for peace, comfort and strength for you in this time.

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