COVID-19: Guidelines for Memory Care Professionals During the Pandemic
Memory care services did not stop operations despite the health and safety risks posed by COVID-19. Even so, caregivers and other frontliners working on senior care facilities still need to protect themselves and their patients to avoid contracting the disease.
Being part of the memory care service community is already taxing, and the pressure caused by this worldwide crisis is not making the job easier. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the added stress and anxiety brought by the pandemic and ensure that the services of memory care professionals are not compromised.
The State of Memory Care Facilities During the Pandemic
The elderly are among the most vulnerable people in the advent of disasters and diseases, and it still proves true with the current pandemic the world is facing. Older people are prone to illnesses due to their weakening organs.
Take note that the virus attacks the respiratory system of the body, making those with existing respiratory ailments or weak respiratory health more vulnerable to infection. The same goes for seniors with aging body systems. Thus, the rapidly increasing death toll of older adults due to the virus is quite expected.
Almost 8% of adults aged 65 years and above have dementia, and these people are at higher risk of contracting the disease. People with dementia have limited access to accurate information regarding the pandemic and might have difficulty in practicing safety measures or remembering public health information taught to them. These limitations increase their risk of infection with the virus.
To clear things, Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia do not increase the risk of contracting COVID-19. However, the behavior associated with dementia can increase risk. People with dementia might forget to wash their hands, cover their mouths, and keep a safe distance from other people.
An additional risk of behavioral problems for seniors who contracted the disease can worsen their situations. COVID-19 patients need to be under intensive care in hospitals. A change of environment can lead to behavioral problems and induce stress.
A COVID-19 mortality calculator found that the majority of people who died due to the virus are old and with underlying health problems. It found that 11% of the country’s COVID-19 cases occurred in these facilities.
Assisted living and memory care facilities are overlooked during the pandemic. These facilities are often left understaffed, underfunded, and with no relief. There is a threat of the rapid spread of the virus in congregate facilities, where many people are confined in one room.
Fortunately, government efforts were facilitated to contain the spread of the virus in these types of institutions. One example is the Washington State Department of Health’s implementation of the widespread testing of nursing care and assisted living facilities with memory care units. The state will fund all of these tests.
Guidelines for Caregivers and Memory Care Facilities
As mentioned, dementia per se does not increase the risk of infection. However, dementia-related behavior can. Memory care services for people with dementia have become more challenging and stressful during the pandemic, especially with the implementation of social distancing.
Maintain a Calm and Collected Environment
As mentioned, the pandemic adds more stress to caregivers and patients. One of the many things that a caregiver should maintain is to remain calm, especially in times like this. The Alzheimer’s Foundation recommends not to raise any alarm on the virus and to limit what you say about the pandemic.
Explain the Situation in Relatable Terms
Even though caregivers are advised to limit disclosing information about the pandemic, this does not mean that you should completely stop talking about the situation. Talk to the patient in a way that they can easily understand. Avoid over-explaining, especially if they have difficulty in grasping information.
Also, stay reassuring and collected when talking to the patient about the pandemic. Measure the cognitive and emotional state of the patient before saying anything about the pandemic. Weigh whether the information is worth sharing, or will it make the situation and state of the patient harder.
Be Familiar with the Communication Policies of the Facility
Many facilities are restricting access to protect the health of their residents. It can be stressful for family members not to visit their loved ones in the facility. Offer to be the contact person of the family members of the patient. You can let them communicate directly to you regarding updates on the situation of the resident or patient.
Family members can reach their relatives through a video call. Using technology can help connect the patient to his or her loved ones. It will lessen the feeling of loneliness, especially during the pandemic, where there are restrictions on communication and interactions.
Check for Facility Restrictions and Procedures Regarding COVID-19
Aside from communication policies, you should also be aware of other policies and procedures that the facility implements. There must be regulations on the clothes you wear, the mask you should use, and how to maintain your hygiene. Make sure to prepare emergency information and family contact information.
As caregivers, you should keep your state of mind and your hygiene in the best state possible. The pandemic adds stress to your job, which might cause a lack of sleep, changes in eating patterns, difficulty in concentrating, and worsening your health.
Pay attention to your anxiety and stress levels, and figure out how to manage them. Communicate and interact with your family and friends while maintaining social distancing. Participate in activities in your home, such as cleaning the house, exercising, cooking, or any other activity that takes your stress away. Watching the news will keep you updated about the pandemic. However, if social media makes you anxious, then try staying off of it.
Do not forget to wash your hands and disinfect yourself when you get home. Keep yourself and your family members from contracting the disease. Eat the right kinds of food and exercise if possible.
Memory care services continue to operate even during this pandemic. Caregivers are needed to take care of those with Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia. However, there is a higher risk of contraction due to the nature of the work. Thus, as caregivers, it is essential to prioritize the prevention of viral contraction to keep yourself and the people around you safe.
Thank You to Our Guest Blog:
Betty Aston is a seasoned family and elder care content writer. Through her writing, Betty has helped hundreds of readers takes steps towards better care for their family. When she's not working or volunteering in nursing homes, Betty spends her time in the kitchen baking pastries with her two daughters.
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