Caring for Those With Dementia in Residential Aged Care During COVID19
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
People living with dementia are incredibly sensitive to changes in their environment.
In a webinar, 'Living With Dementia During COVID-19 and How We All Can Help' , hosted this week by the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), Dementia Australia shared information received from Chinese colleagues of Alzheimer's Disease International on the impacts of COVID-19 on people living with dementia and their carers.
Chinese doctors found that ‘COVID-19 driven changes’ - such as social distancing measures, changes to care schedules and care arrangements - had caused people living with dementia to experience:
- Increasing anxiety levels,
- Declining memory and comprehension, and
- A deterioration of their existing cognitive problems.
At the same time family carers experienced:
- Worry and concern about the health of the person with dementia, and
- Conflict with that person.
And professional carers experienced:
- Agitation and panic,
- Fatigue and burnout, and
- Loneliness and helplessness.
Currently, there are just under half a million Australians living with dementia and around 1.5 million Australians involved in their care. The majority, conservatively estimated at 52%, reside in aged care facilities.
In safeguarding their residents in unprecedented times, some aged care facilities made the decision to go into complete lockdown, with no visits allowed.
As the weeks pass and the lockdowns continue, aged care advocacy groups are questioning these measures as visiting family members play an important role in the care of aged care residents with dementia, be it creating calm, providing company, and/or help with feeding.
On Tuesday this week (21 April 2020), after a National Cabinet meeting, our Prime Minister Scott Morrison reminded aged care providers of the government's original advice of 18 March 2020 , that visits be limited to "a maximum of two immediate social supports (family members, close friends) or professional service or advocacy at one time, per day."
This was followed by a statement from our Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, that: "It's not reasonable or fair to people who may have been used to their family coming every day, who may have dementia, to be denied access to their families."
If you are being denied access to your loved one in aged care, speak to the manager of the facility and seek to visit your loved one on the terms set out by the facility.
Those terms should reflect the terms set out by the Prime Minister on 18 March 2020, namely that:
- Visits be of short duration.
- As mentioned earlier, visits be limited to a maximum of two immediate social supports (family members, close friends) or professional service or advocacy at one time, per day.
- Visits be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors, or in a specific area designated by the aged care facility, rather than communal areas.
- No large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment, be permitted.
- No school groups of any size be allowed to visit aged care facilities.
- Visitors practise social (physical) distancing practices where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.
- Children aged 16 years or less must be permitted only by exception, as they are generally unable to comply with hygiene measures. Exemptions can be assessed on a case-by-case basis, for example, where the resident is in a palliative care scenario.
- Measures such as phone or video calls must be accessible to all residents to enable more regular communication with family members. Family and friends be encouraged to maintain contact with residents by phone and other social communication apps, as appropriate.
Do You Need An Advocate to Help At This Time?
If you require an advocate or seek care solutions, please don't hesitate to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion.
Seeking more information on caring for someone with dementia? Refer to my prior blogs:
- Managing Care for Someone Diagnosed with Dementia
- Taking a Break While Looking after a Loved One with Dementia .
DR Care Solutions offers expertise on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.