Most Kentuckians with Alzheimer’s are over 65 and have chronic illness, putting them at greater risk of covid-19; tips for caretakers

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People with Alzheimer’s disease are considered at high risk for covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, not only because they have Alzheimer’s, but also because most of the 272,000 Kentuckians with the disease are over 65 and most of them have at least one other chronic illness, Hillary Smith reports in a University of Kentucky news release.

The increased risk of covid-19 for people with Alzheimer’s presents yet another challenge for caretakers. To help them, UK’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging offers some best practices during this outbreak.

Guidance for Caregivers:

  • Wash your hands when you leave the home and when you return to the home, and frequently throughout the day.
  • Clean high-use surfaces, like doorknobs, sink handles and refrigerator doors, with a solution of four teaspoons bleach to four cups of water.
  • Manage your underlying chronic health conditions.
  • Have both your and your care-recipient’s prescriptions called into a pharmacy that can either deliver them or has a drive-through pickup window.
  • Monitor yourself and your person for covid-19 symptoms, which are fever, cough and sore throat, says the release. Shortness of breath is also a symptom. Call your doctor if you have any symptoms.
  • Have an alternative plan of care for your person if you would not be able to provide it.
  • Make sure anyone coming into your home to help with care is adhering to all hand-washing rules and monitoring themselves for covid-19 symptoms.
  • Practice social distancing and make sure you and your person are not in close contact with groups of people.

Social distancing suggestions:

  • Work from home if possible, especially if your job allows telecommuting.
  • Attend your worship service online or call a member of your religious organization to worship together over the phone.
  • If you must take your person shopping, seek times to shop that are set aside only for seniors. Better yet, have friends, family or neighbors pick up the items you need.
  • Order takeout from restaurants that can deliver or offers curbside service and allows you to pay over the phone.
  • Limit family visits, including visits with grandchildren. Connect via social media or visit outside standing six feet apart.
  • Going to the park and taking walks or a drive present minimal risk.

Home Engagement: 

  • Stick to a routine to help keep things feel normal.
  • Keep the curtains open and lights on during the day.
  • Try new activities within the home, like listening to music, looking at or organizing photos, folding washcloths or putting socks together, talking about historical events, playing cards, gardening or crafting.
Other tips for caring for a person with Alzheimer’s: 
  •  Be flexible and patient.
  • Avoid correcting the person.
  • Help the person remain as independent as possible.
  • Offer opportunities to make choices, two at the most.
  • Simplify instructions.
  • Establish a familiar routine.
  • Provide encouragement and support.
  • Help get your person started in the activity if they don’t start themselves.

Behaviors: If you see an increase in disruptive behavior like agitation, aggression, anxiety or resistance to care, remember that your person can pick up on your stress and anxiety. Sanders-Brown says to first make sure that the general needs of your person are being met and if they are, then to redirect and distract. It is also suggested that you keep a log of when these behaviors occur and what is happening at that time. And if the behaviors persist, call your medical provider.

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