Strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are especially challenging to implement in dedicated memory care units where numerous residents with cognitive impairment reside together. For example, residents can have a difficult time following recommended infection prevention practices such as social distancing, washing their hands, avoiding touching their face, and wearing a cloth face covering for source control. Changes to resident routines, disruptions in daily schedules, use of unfamiliar equipment, or working with unfamiliar caregivers can lead to fear and anxiety resulting in increased depression and behavioral changes such as agitation, aggression, or wandering. Many of these residents may not have the ability to speak or put their fears into words, how are you, the caregiver, going to help these residents? A few things to think about and consider as you support your residents living with Dementia:
- People living with Dementia benefit from routine while still reminding and assisting with frequent hand hygiene, social distancing, and use of face mask (if tolerated). Try to work with residents in the same order and timeframe daily. This can be challenging when residents resist care during their normal routine and you may need to adjust the time for providing care to other residents to meet this challenge. Have a back up plan; after three unsuccessful attempts to provide care, document the refusals and circle back after a set amount of time and try again.
- Dedicate personnel to work only on memory care units when possible and try to keep staffing consistent. Limit personnel on the unit to only those essential for care.
- Keep meaning in their lives. Scheduled and structured activities may not always be possible but allow for activities that provide purpose for those residents, activities that are fun and exciting for them. Activities may need to occur in the resident’s room or be scheduled at staggered times throughout the day to maintain social distancing.
- Provide safe ways for residents to continue to be active, such as personnel walking with individual residents outside.
- Know your resident population. Some residents prefer to be “left alone” so they won’t miss the large group activities that are now on hold. Instead, choose activities based on their personal preferences. Allow time for them to express themselves through art projects, building/constructing kits like bird houses. This is a great time to introduce various fabrics and textured items.
- For residents who prefer to remain in their apartment or are required to be isolated due to illness, consider “activities on the go”. Place small games, craft projects and other items that can be easily sanitized after use into a bin and take that to the resident in their apartment. Stay with them and work 1:1 (maintain social distancing) to engage them in the activities and/or conversation when able.
- Frequently clean often-touched surfaces in the memory care unit, especially in hallways and common areas.
The last thing you want to do is stir up unpleasant emotions in your community, so keep it simple and truthful. Keep your emotions and feelings under control as this can be a very stressful and trying time for our residents, families, and staff.