This is a difficult and uncertain time for people living with dementia and their families. Social connections and stimulation are so important in dementia care and living in lockdown, avoiding social situations and wearing a mask can all be more problematic when dementia is involved.

However, there is support out there and we've pulled together some advice on how to cope when you are cooped up at home. 

At home with dementia

Keep to a routine as far as possible. Try to find diverting activities and stay entertained.

Avoid too much rolling news if it is upsetting. Perhaps limit the amount of news you are seeing on the TV, radio or phone and tune in or look for Government updates at set times of the day.

Set up different areas in your home for different activities:

  • Watch favourite films in the living room.
  • Do jigsaw puzzles or craft activities at the table.
  • Build some ‘time out’ for you both into the day if this is possible in the space you are in.

Go outside:

  • If you can, take walks around the garden, do a spot of gardening or just sit out for fresh air.
  • If you are close to open countryside, or in a quiet town or village, try to get outside for a short walk each day if you are well enough. Fresh air and green space is stimulating and will give you new things to talk about.

Ask friends to bring you puzzles, films, games that you think you would enjoy together or alone. Ask them to leave them outside the front door or in the porch.

If you are online, try some of the many dementia friendly activity and resource ideas. These include virtual Music and virtual Movement sessions, and art projects to try at home.

We are recreating a day club day at home with different activities. We play games, listen to music and do exercises that we know work and he enjoys. We just do things for 10 - 15 minutes at a time so it is very relaxed and is working well

Tony, father in law of Mill Street Club member Reg, right, working out at home during lockdown

Explaining the situation 

Obviously what you say will depend on the person and how well they can process the information. Bear in mind that this is outside most people's experience so people will not have a rationale to fall back on. 

You may need to explain the current situation to the person with dementia using simple and short sentences that you can repeat on a frequent basis, rather than trying to explain things in detail. And give lots of reassurance. 

For example, you could say that there is a flu outbreak and people are being advised to stay at home. You could write this on a note on the front door where it will be seen before leaving the house. However if the person with dementia insists on leaving the house, assess the level of distress it would cause if you were to try to persuade them otherwise. If the person find a mask distressing you can order an exemption card here.

If putting up signs works for you or the person you care for, reminders (including pictures reminders) to wash hands is a good idea in the bathroom or elsewhere in your home. 

Supporting from a distance

Finding ways to keep in touch will be the most important thing everyone can do to help people coping at home.

Helping someone living elsewhere

If you support or care for someone with dementia but do not live with them lockdown is particularly hard. You can still help by dropping off, or arranging, deliveries of groceries, games or films, personal notes, treats and items that you know will have meaning for the person or couple. Leave them outside or in the porch of course. It may not feel like much but it will be appreciated and show that you are thinking of them. 

Phone often and rediscover the joy of letter-writing. It won’t suit everyone - and of course it is best to use a platform people are already familiar with - but you may be able to set them up on Skype or use WhatApp video or Facetime to check in every day. Calling at the same time each day gives reassurance and something to look forward to.

Helping someone in full time care

If your relative is in full-time care the issues will be different. While you may not feel so responsible for day-to-day welfare and health, not being able to visit can be heartbreaking. Again, phone often and see if the staff can set up Skype or Facetime call so you can continue to connect. There is new guidance on visiting care homes, but so much will depend on the individual circumstances of the person and the home. 

How we are supporting families with dementia in Wiltshire

For more help and support in Wiltshire contact us on 01225 776481 (not 24 hours) or see Wiltshire Council's Covid-19 Community Pack


Please help us - an appeal

There are many unknowns with this virus but one thing we do know is that people with dementia still need our support, now and into the future.

Please support us by making a donation if you can

  • £10 pays for coffee and biscuits at one of our singing or art groups
  • £25 pay for one of our amazing support workers to spend quality time with someone living with dementia
  • £100 subsidises a member at one of our day clubs for a month

Thank you in advance for any amount you can give.

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