Advice for Explaining Covid-19 to loved ones who have dementia

DARE: Don’t Argue, Reason, or Explain

We are all navigating a very new kind of world these days, one filled with roadblocks and uncertainties. And for people with dementia, it can be even more frightening and confusing. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Central Coast Chapter recently ran an article in their newsletter with some valuable tips for those of us caring for loved ones who have dementia.

One of the best rules of the road, even in pre- or post-covid times, can best be remembered by its acronym: DARE. Don’t Argue, Reason, or Explain. Author and Memory Care Specialist Luciana Mitzkun Weston explains it this way:

“Arguing with a loved one with cognitive impairment only results in resistance to care; reasoning is frustrating and futile; and explaining takes a lot of energy and rarely increases comprehension.”

Instead, Weston suggests the following ways of dealing with the safety requirements for preventing  Covid-19 while offering some reassurances.

  • Say “flu” instead of Covid-19. Flu is more familiar and less scary than a global illness that is killing millions.
  • Don’t take your loved one outside the safe bubble of your home (or care community) unless you know they can maintain distance and keep their mask on.
  • Make the masks fun. Find masks with a theme they can identify with, such as cats, sports teams, flags, cars, or flowers.
  • For those who are living in a community, window visits may be allowed. Make the most of them by bringing photos to talk about and treats to share.
  • Model hand-washing and other safety measures for them. Make it part of your routine with them.
  • Listen to their concerns and do your best to calm their anxieties.
  • Give plenty of compliments praising their appearance and behavior (masks and distancing)
  • Write uplifiting messages (post cards and letters) and stay positive. We’re all experiencing some degree of fear and uncertainty. Try to leave those at the door when visiting with your loved ones who have dementia.

A 24-hour helpline is available for anyone needing help or advice during this trying time: 800.272.3900.

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Caring for a loved one with Dementia or Alzheimer's is emotionally challenging—as is the decision to move them to a Memory Care facility. The Village at Sydney Creek is here to assist you with this transition. Our community in San Luis Obispo, California provides a knowledgeable staff and the necessary resources to make this step as smooth as possible—logistically, mentally, and emotionally.

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