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COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s: what caregivers need to know

To the editor:

While the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health of millions in this country and around the world, the novel coronavirus presents unique challenges for more than 400,000 New Yorkers living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

Most notably, public health strategies aimed at limiting contact with others is nearly impossible for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, who rely on family caregivers and others to live their daily lives. This reality affects these individuals across all settings, including home, adult day services, residential and assisted living facilities and nursing homes. 

To help family caregivers navigate the current complex and quickly changing environment, the Alzheimer’s Association is offering additional guidance to families, including: 

¯ Help people living with Alzheimer’s practice safe hygiene. People with Alzheimer’s and other dementia may forget to wash their hands or follow other precautions to ensure safe hygiene. Caregivers are encouraged to be extra vigilant in helping individuals practice safe hygiene.

¯ Anticipate and prepare that current care and support options may change. As public health containment strategies for COVID-19 escalate during the next several weeks, it is important for families to anticipate that less help and support may be available. For example, many adult day care programs are shutting down during the crisis and home health services may also become less available. It’s important for families to anticipate these changes and make plans for filling gaps in caregiving.

¯ Ask residential care facilities about their communication policies. In order to protect the health of their residents, many facilities are restricting access to outside visitors, so it’s important to ask how you can get updates on your family member’s health and how you can communicate with loved ones during the current crisis. Ask to see if phone calls, including video calls, will be offered and how best to coordinate.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers education, support and resource information. Many educational programs and support groups are available via phone or video conferencing. For a list of groups and dial-in information, visit alz.org/northeasternny.

Marisa Korytko

Marketing and public relations director

Alzheimer’s Association, Northeastern New York

Albany

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