COVID-19: How Will It Impact People with Dementia?
The COVID pandemic has everyone on edge. It successfully disrupted how we have done things across social, economic, and health(obviously)spheres for several months. We have been hit on the health sphere the hardest, with death tolls rising and mortuaries running out of space to keep the dead.
The worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic were seniors because of their weakened immune systems. So you'd imagine what it'd be like for seniors who have dementia. The fear and confusion that having to tackle two potentially life-threatening health issues generate are astronomical.
If you know a senior with dementia, you'd be right to ask questions like greater ‘’How will this virus impact those with dementia? ‘’Will they be more susceptible to catching it? ‘’Will it make their symptoms worse?
This blog post will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on people with dementia and offer some tips on how to help them cope.
Are People With Dementia More Susceptible To Catching COVID-19
People with dementia are more susceptible to catching COVID-19. The reason is that the virus can cause serious health complications in those with dementia, including pneumonia and respiratory failure. In some cases, it can be deadly. Here's why it is that way.
Seniors with dementia are more vulnerable to contracting the virus because both ailments share the same risk factors: age, obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus. It worsens if the seniors have latent brain pathology because this, in turn, increases the possibility of neurological complications that the coronavirus might bring about.
How Will The Virus Impact People With Dementia?
When seniors with dementia experience the cognitive impairment and neuropsychiatric symptoms that come with the ailment, they find it difficult to appreciate and adhere to preventive measures like using face masks and social distancing.
This inability to abide by these measures increases their risks of contracting the coronavirus.
Then there is the thing about the living arrangements of seniors with dementia. Older adults with dementia need constant caregiving services, and so they are mostly in facilities where they have caregivers assigned to them.
Such living conditions even put them at even more risks of infection because the staff and patients in such facilities will find it difficult to maintain social distancing. Caregivers will find it extremely difficult to avoid physical contact when discharging caregiving duties like bathing and feeding their charges.
But more importantly, with dementia-associated neuropsychiatric symptoms like agitation, intrusiveness, or wandering, safety protocols are thrown out of the window. Executing lockdown measures only make these conditions worse and make them difficult to manage by their caregivers. So it cannot be used to curb the spread of the coronavirus in such health facilities.
So how does it affect them?
It affects them in many ways.
Seniors with dementia will be severely hit by the restrictions that countries worldwide have set up to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Fact is, there are dire neuropsychiatric consequences for them. Ordinarily, when "normal" people are forced to maintain social distancing, there is a tendency for psychiatric symptoms like stress, anxiety, and depression to occur. After all, humans are social animals, and we need social interactions almost as much as we need air and food if we are to stay sane.
Now imagine someone already struggling with some of these symptoms being deprived of the presence of other people, some of whom they draw the strength to remain sane. The thing is, people with dementia may not understand why they need to stay isolated or why they can't go out and see their friends and family. As a result, they may become agitated or confused, which can lead to increased anxiety and stress levels. So it is only natural that such individuals experience some degeneration in their mental health in such situations.
Sadly, there is no cure for dementia, so people with the condition are already at a higher risk of death from any illness. This means that they are especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
That is why you must know how to manage the situation.
How to Manage The Situation
Seniors with dementia need to communicate with their families and loved ones during a trying time. It's also important to keep up with your loved one's mental and emotional needs during this time of isolation.
Now every family is unique, so the way you go about managing the situation will differ from how others do. With that in mind, here are some ways that we think that you can manage the situation effectively :
- Schedule telephone or video calls/chats as a means to stay connected to them
- Send them notes and photos
- Try playing online puzzles with them if they are up for it
- Get them their favorite music on a music player
Find what works for you. The general idea is to find ways to keep them active and engaged because they need a stronger connection with you, more than ever. But that's not all you can do to keep their spirits up.
You could visit them. Depending on your vaccination status and the care facility in question, you can enjoy expanded visitation that allows you to reunite with your family member who has dementia and is at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Seniors with dementia are highly susceptible to getting infected with coronavirus. On the one hand, they are at risk because of their immune systems that have been weakened by age. On the other hand, due to some of the symptoms that come with dementia, they may not be able to follow the safety protocols meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Worse still, they are at increased risk of COVID-19 infection because of the nature of the care facilities where they are often kept. There might even be restrictions on movement that prevent visitors from seeing such seniors in some instances.
Yet, they need interaction with people especially loved ones like you, at this point. So what do you do? We have provided some tips that should help you manage the situation. We hope that they prove useful to you.