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The Best Times

Tips help people with dementia during a COVID-19 quarantine

February 24, 2021

By Juliette B. Bradley

As coronavirus cases continue to rise, more than 40 states have enacted some kind of restriction by issuing different types of orders to help keep people at home.

Finding ways to stay engaged and active during the pandemic is proving to be challenging for many Americans, but it can be particularly challenging for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia and their care partners.

To help care partners engage their loved ones living with dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association offers a variety of tips, including:

  • Start by asking yourself these questions: What does my loved one like to do? What is he/she able to do? And, what is he/she in the mood for today? Spending time with a loved one with Alzheimer’s and other dementia can remain meaningful and fun, especially if you take your cue from the person. 
  • Encourage involvement in daily life activities: Activities that help the individual feel like a valued part of the household, like setting the table and folding laundry, can provide a sense of success and accomplishment.
  • Focus on individual enjoyment: A former office worker might enjoy activities that involve organizing, like putting coins in a holder, helping to assemble a mailing or making a to-do list. A former farmer or gardener may take pleasure in preparing the soil for planting.

Because staying at home can be isolating, sometimes the care partner needs to modify or adjust the activities. If you notice a person’s attention span waning or frustration level increasing, it’s
likely time to end or modify the activity.

Some suggestions for the care partner are:

  • Help get the activity started. Most people with dementia still have the energy and desire to do things, but may lack the ability to organize, plan, initiate and successfully complete the task.
  • Concentrate on the process, not the result. Does it matter if the towels are folded properly? Not really. What matters is that you were able to spend time together and that the person feels as if he or she has done something useful.
  • Be flexible. If the person insists on doing an activity in a different way, let it happen and change it later if necessary.
  • Assist with difficult parts of the task. If you’re cooking, and the person can’t measure the ingredients, finish the measuring and say, “Would you please stir this for me?”
  • Encourage self expression. These types of activities could include painting, drawing, music or conversation.

For more information, visit alz.org/help-support/caregiving/daily-care/activities or call the Alzheimer’s Association free, 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

Juliette B. Bradley is the Kansas state director of communications of the Alzheimer’s Association, Heart of America Chapter, Prairie Village.