While those with dementia are not at a greater risk for COVID-19, dementia-related behaviours, increased age and the common health conditions that accompany individuals with dementia may increase their risk.
Diseases like COVID-19 have guidelines and instructions from various health organisations within each Australian state and world-wide departments recommending increased hygiene practices such as hand washing and other precautions to prevent the spread of illness. Dementia sufferers may forget to follow these precautions as well as possible cognitive impairment, increasing their risk.
To reduce your risks of COVID-19, follow and encourage others to follow the guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO);
- Wash your hands frequently
- Maintain social distancing
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
- Practice respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
- Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover
Source: WHO World Health Organisation, March 19, 2020
Tips for Dementia Caregivers
Along with the above guidelines, people living with dementia may need additional support including;
- Assistance in remembering important hygiene practices, for example, placing signs in bathrooms and hand-washing demonstrations.
- Provide a quick alternative to soap and water by supplying and encouraging the use of hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol.
- Enquire with their pharmacist about filling prescriptions in advance to reduce trips to the pharmacy.
- For those in assisted living, check with the facility regarding their procedure and ensure emergency contact information is up-to-date.
- Plan ahead and make alternate plans for care if the primary caregiver should become sick.
Rapidly increased confusion is often the first symptom of any illness. Contact your health care provider if any of the above occur.
For more information on COVID-19;
- What you need to know about coronavirus (COVID-19), Department of Health, Australian Government
- COVID-19 – Frequently asked questions, NSW Health
- Looking after your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mental Health Commission, Government of Western Australia