More than 5 million American’s of all ages have Alzheimer’s, and an estimated 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2020. This means dementia units are full and continuing to grow. Many long term care veterans and experts can tell you the number one way to manage Alzheimer’s disease in yourself, patient or loved one is to keep things structured. In times of emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, or other uncertain times, structure might go out the window.
We’ve compiled your go-to resource for keeping residents calm and maintaining normalcy in the COVID-19 era, a time that has been marked by uncertainty.
Things look a bit different for residents in long term care. Instead of daily family visits or lunchtime outings, most activities are kept inside or in a courtyard, with the same staff and peer residents around.When planning activities for patients in memory care, the best thing to do is focus on simple tasks, without requiring any choices on their part. These activities can be done anytime, indoors or outdoors. Most importantly, stay calm and patient!
Take a Walk
Many residents living with dementia enjoy walking or pacing back and forth. While their walking may seem useless or without a goal in mind, this is typically untrue. Many dementia patients will walk with a destination in mind, or have a plan and forget what it is or that they’re unable to complete the task they had hoped to. Plus, studies show exercise can help brain function. Walking is a perfect activity with numerous benefits that can continue in times of stress. Be sure there is a safe place for them to do this.
Listen to Music
Music is therapeutic for all ages or neurological functions, but those living with cognitive decline can experience a few extra benefits. They can find comfort in music that reminds them of cherished memories, and they are getting a neurological benefit as well. Similar to exercise, experts have studied the impact of music on the brain and seen positive changes. Not only listening to music but playing it can improve brain function if done throughout life or picked up in old age.
Take advantage of technology in your community help provide comfort and certainty to those living with dementia. Eversound’s wireless headphones have been used as a tool by music therapists to help soothe agitated residents while delivering COVID-19 tests or to prepare them for family visits. Because Eversound uses long range technology up to 150 feet, residents wearing the headphones are able to hear their family members before they see them which has helped alleviate confusion around new visitation guidelines. Learn more here.
Keeping family in the loop is a benefit to all involved. While a dementia patient may not remember things from day to day, they can find comfort in family conversations and photos. Uncertain times means a chance of letting daily responsibilities or tasks fall through the cracks. It’s important to make a point of scheduling in time for families to connect with residents. Whether it be video chat or a phone call, setting up weekly (or more) calls is crucial in maintaining a patient’s expectations and keeping them calm.
Take Photos to Send to Family
Connecting with family can look all different ways, especially in times of visitation restriction or emergency. A fun activity for dementia patients is looking through albums and taking photos. Send these to families via social media or in the mail to keep the connection alive and communication open.
Encourage Window Visitation
Window visits are a welcomed addition to long term care during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new way of interacting and seeing loved ones can be used in emergency, sickness, and more. The creativity has been off the charts with families coming to make birth announcements with signs and window birthday celebrations. Here Tudor Oaks Senior Living uses Eversound to overcome communication barriers caused by clear partitions.
Minimize Disruption to Routine
The more true to routine you can get, the better. Dementia residents do well with structure and routine, so if huge changes need to be made, keep it as similar as possible.
For example: Keep activities but lessen the amount of people involved. Similarly, keep dinner in the dining room, but stagger times so there are fewer residents at once. Follow the restrictions laid out by the CDC and senior community, but maintain as much normalcy as possible.
Keep it Simple
Ask or say one thing at a time. This applies to every day with dementia residents, but in times of emergency, it may be tempting to offer more. This isn’t going to help and may provoke anxiety, stress, or frustration for them instead.
One simple and effective way to keep dementia residents calm is to continue reminding them they are safe and that everything is ok. Like most of us, it’s easy to feel tension and recognize anxiety in other people. While a dementia unit may be on high alert and concerned, it’s imperative to only relay positive, comforting things to residents.
Spend time outdoors
Nobody likes to be cooped up all day. It might not be possible to do all the normal activities outdoors sometimes, but maintaining a safe place to get outside for the sun, fresh air, and change of scenery can benefit a dementia patient!
During COVID restrictions and other emergencies, there is a lot on the staffs’ plate. A top priority to keep the resident calm is to stay vigilant and recognize signs of distress in a patient. many dementia patients show fear, anger, or pain with non-verbal cues. Know your residents and stay in tune with their behaviors to avoid a negative situation.
Be the Comfort They Need
Above all, dementia patients are out of control. They don’t have control of their mind, and eventually, their bodies. In times of uncertainty and even panic- Helping dementia residents through can be boiled down to keeping staff calm, and keeping as true to routine as possible. Residents of all neurological function will sense the stress, but being there to comfort and confirm everything will be okay is crucial.
Want more care advice for those living with dementia? Download our free 4-part dementia care guide here: