The challenges of adapting to life during a pandemic are magnified for those living with dementia and their caregivers. Social isolation, disruption of routines, reduced access to support services, and the increased risk caused by dementia-related behaviors (forgetting to wash hands, etc.) leaves caregivers with a lot of insecurity regarding the ways COVID-19 will affect their lives.
Are you overwhelmed by the task of keeping your loved one active and safe when social norms have been upended and safety recommendations are constantly changing? Below are five suggestions for dementia-friendly activities to help counteract the anxiety of life during a pandemic.
Take a Social Distancing Walk – Call a friend or two and meet at a nature trail or park with a paved path that allows for more than one person to walk the safe 6 ft distance from one another. If parks are too crowded, consider visiting a local cemetery such as Cleveland’s Lakeview Cemetery Loop, where there are fewer visitors and designated walking trails. Benefits include staying active and companionship, which trigger the release of “feel good endorphins” and decrease cortisol levels.
Start or Maintain a Healthy Brain Diet – It is easy to adopt poor eating habits and consume empty nutritional calories when every trip to the grocery store requires special equipment and elaborate planning. Be sure to drink plenty of water to help with digestion and hydration, and try to incorporate more brain and heart healthy foods such as fish, vegetables, and whole foods rich in nutrients and vitamins. Decreasing your loved one’s intake of sugar and carbohydrates can also benefit body and brain function.
Stay in Contact with Friends and Family – Feeling lonely and isolated is a common experience for caregivers and those living with dementia even before the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, we are fortunate to live in a time when technology is more user-friendly than ever. While maintaining a phone conversation can be challenging for someone with dementia, tools such as Facetime and Zoom provide the added benefit of visual cues to help close the social interaction gap created by this health crisis.
Stimulate the Brain – Engage in activities that stimulate the brain to help combat feelings of boredom and restless anxiety. Gloria’s Way has a full calendar of local (virtual) events and activities including an “Activity Tip for the Week,” virtual classes, support groups, dancing, art programs and more.
Stay Informed + Connected – If you haven’t already, now is the time to plug-in to your local dementia support network and connect with resources to help you and your loved one navigate the challenges and emotional roller coaster of living with dementia. This was one of the reason’s Tonia Porras accelerated the launch of Gloria’s Way based out of Cleveland Ohio, whose mission is to create a “community-based program with services that provide support, education, and relief for those affected by memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer disease.” In addition to providing a robust database of Northeast Ohio dementia-related services, Gloria’s Way also offers one-to-one support and care virtual consultations.
Many dementia caregivers are faced with the notion that how we care for ourselves and each other is irreversibly changed. As with any situation that is complicated by factors outside of our control, COVID-19 creates a call to get back to basics.
Keeping things simple and consistent is key to providing the most effective care for your loved one living with dementia. Having these five strategies in mind can provide a much needed sense of stability, creativity, and respite. Stay active, safe, and connected — and reach out via this form if you need help finding your way.