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Q: My grandmother has dementia. Do you have any tips or guidance that I can follow to help support her and her daily needs?

Most likely, dementia does not increase risk for COVID-19, just like dementia does not increase risk for the flu. However, dementia-related behaviors, increased age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia may increase risk.

For example, people with Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementia may forget to wash their hands or take other recommended precautions to prevent illness.

Caregivers of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and all other dementia should follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and consider the following tips:

  • For people living with dementia, increased confusion is often the first symptom of any illness. If a person living with dementia shows rapidly increased confusion, contact your health care provider for advice. Unless the person is having difficulty breathing or has a high fever, it is recommended that you call your health care provider instead of going directly to an emergency room. Your doctor may be able to treat the person without a visit to the hospital.
  • People living with dementia may need extra and/or written reminders and support to remember important hygienic practices from one day to the next.
    • Consider placing signs in the bathroom and elsewhere to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds.
    • Demonstrate thorough hand-washing.
    • Have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol around the house as a quick alternative to hand-washing if the person with dementia cannot wash their hands easily.
  • Ask your pharmacist or doctor about filling prescriptions for a greater number of days in advance to reduce trips to the pharmacy.
  • Make alternative plans for the person with dementia should adult day care, and care services are modified due to COVID-19. Ask for support or find activities to do at home.
  • Think ahead and make alternative plans for care management if the primary caregiver should become sick.

The Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter has a 24/7 Helpline for caregivers and all those affected by the disease 800-272-3900. We are also now offering telephone support groups for Maui County and online services through June 2020. Please call 808-518-6650 for more information.

Christine Spencer, Maui County Regional Coordinator
Alzheimer's Association