Care Facilities Lockdown Is Hard on Parents with Dementia

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by Ray Burow |

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We were hopeful that COVID-19 would be long gone by now, but unfortunately, it continues its persistent trek across the country.

Elderly parents are missing their families, who have been barred from visiting nursing facilities due to the possibility of spreading COVID-19. Seniors are feeling a little lost without interaction from the outside world, and those with Alzheimer’s disease are wondering where their children have disappeared to. Meanwhile, adult children are broken and fearful that their aging parents feel abandoned.

Sadness multiplies for families of patients with dementia

An elderly parent with dementia has good and bad days, but being sheltered from visitors presents an opportunity for more bad than good.

I’ve spoken with several caregivers living through the above scenario. Each of these attentive daughters are stressing over the thought of their moms either forgetting who they are, or that their feelings will be perpetually hurt because their girls haven’t come for a visit.

Staying in front of the mind with a parent who has dementia is crucial. Yes, they may forget you were there the second you turn the corner from their room, but continual visits often help them to remember the closeness of a daughter, son, or sibling. Even if they don’t remember your name, they may identify emotionally, which wasn’t happening on the phone for my friends.

Worry becomes palpable

One friend learned that her mom was ill. Thankfully, it wasn’t COVID-19, but it still added worry. In person, perhaps she would have been less concerned about her mom’s weight loss, and certainly her mother would have been less confused if her daughter was able to spend time with her. Perhaps the non-visits are an explanation for why her mom has lost a few pounds.

Many caregivers across the country are fearful, worried, and feeling uncertain about a future with their loved ones. Without personal touch and interaction, some aging parents living in nursing homes begin to lose ground. Cognitive abilities may dissipate and some may become frailer. The emotional toll on parents and their adult children is great.

Factoring into the equation is unwarranted guilt. Sometimes what we don’t do — or aren’t allowed to do — is the most important. Not visiting a nursing facility during this pandemic is one of them. Of course we get that mentally, but hearts are still breaking.

It can’t last forever

Though some areas of the country are beginning to reopen, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are still playing it safe. Most aren’t allowing visitors. One of these days, it will be safe again to visit and extend personal touch. In the interim, the following tips will help those who are forced apart.

Call often

Calling on the phone won’t be the same as a personal visit, but it might help. Parents who have dementia may forget that you spoke with them on the phone, just as they may forget after a personal visit. Try to keep yourself before them by calling more than once a day. This may require coordination with the facility, as using a phone is challenging for some residents.

Be prepared, your parent will probably ask you over and over again where you are and why you’re not visiting. All you can do is speak words of love, telling them that it’s not that you’re too busy to come by, but for a short time, like all other visitors, you’re prevented from doing so.

Here’s the good news: When you’re finally able to meet up again with your loved one, they might not remember it’s been a very long time. A person with dementia may totally forget that it’s been weeks or months since they’ve seen you face-to-face. The day you’re finally allowed into the facility will be like hitting a restart button for most people.

Virtual visit

Visiting via a digital platform may help pass the time for your loved one. Admittedly, technology can cause confusion for someone with dementia, but give it a try. Set up a digital or video call through the facility.

Gifts and cards

Sending daily cards and gifts may keep you foremost in a parent’s mind. The act of opening a card or present will be exciting and encouraging, too. Receiving something in the mail can break up the monotony of your loved one’s day, and it’s a tangible, touchable item. They can pick it up and reread it over and over again, fingering the card and gift. Your signature will probably be the most important part of the card. Don’t simply sign your name — preface it with “Your daughter” (sister, son, etc.) to remind them who you are to them.

Someone once said, “Trouble don’t last always.” Hold on to that!

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Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

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