Easing COVID-19 Restrictions Will Provide Relief for Caregivers

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by Ray Burow |

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It’s finally happening. We’re digging our way out of a very long and dark tunnel as the U.S. begins to drop COVID-19 restrictions, mainly mask mandates. Also, deaths from the disease have declined here, and fewer people are falling ill from it. As of this writing, more than 61% of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and nearly 50% are fully vaccinated.

Expressing gratitude

Aside from a collective sigh of relief, can we also take a minute to express gratefulness? Life may be slowly on its way back to normal. The pandemic has been particularly challenging for those trying to keep a loved one safe. Imagine repeatedly explaining the importance of wearing a mask to someone who doesn’t have the capacity to remember it. There’s a fine line between encouraging and badgering someone to do what’s best for them.

Wearing a mask may have prevented COVID-19 from being passed from one person to another. Still, for persons with hearing disorders or cognitive issues, who often depend on facial cues, the mandate inhibited communication skills and understanding.

A weary caregiver recently inquired if there was a way to keep a mask on a person with Alzheimer’s disease. The person within her care constantly removed it. The answer was no. Like the rest of us, they would have to badger their loved one as gently as possible. For more than a year, caregivers have cajoled their loved ones into stopping doing this or that.

“Wear the mask.”

“Don’t touch your face.”

“Don’t touch anything or anybody.”

“Don’t hug your grandkids.”

No wonder we’re breathing more easily, and not simply because the masks are coming off. We’re finally in the position to change our message and tone. The grandkids can embrace their fully vaccinated grandparents, who can now scratch their nose without being reprimanded.

These may appear like small things. Compared to the devastation COVID-19 has left in its wake, they are infinitesimal. However, if you’re a caregiver that’s harangued a spouse, mother, or father with Alzheimer’s disease about wearing a mask, you get it. You’re likely grateful for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest recommendation for masks.

Telemedicine is great until it isn’t

As dementia progresses, it becomes more challenging to get out and about. Taking a loved one with Alzheimer’s to their doctors’ appointments is daunting, even on a good day. Thankfully, most healthcare providers quickly pivoted to meet the needs of their patients with telemedicine during the pandemic.

Televisits were the perfect solution for patients and their weary caregivers — until they weren’t. Telemedicine is a beautiful tool, and it’s mind-boggling that it took a pandemic for many healthcare providers to realize its usefulness.

However, a televisit can only go so far. There’s something to be said for a hands-on appointment. The doctor can’t take a person’s vital signs during a televisit. It is difficult to assess the patient’s demeanor and physical appearance, such as their coloring, which can provide clues. A person appears on screen differently than they would in person.

During a televisit, the healthcare provider primarily relies on how the patient says they feel. The doctor can’t palpate a painful area to discover abnormalities. Telemedicine is a great alternative when it’s the only alternative, but there comes a time when it’s necessary to see the patient in person, face-to-face.

Now that the country is moving forward and hopefully distancing itself from COVID-19, patients can go back to in-person doctors’ appointments. However, it would be nice to continue making the choice available. In the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, patients are often unable to make the physical trip to the doctor’s office.

Less isolation

The pandemic added to the isolation that was already a close and unwelcome companion for caregivers and people with dementia. As mentioned earlier, it’s not easy to go anywhere, but sans COVID-19, we can still take an occasional walk in a park, eat out, or have family members come over to visit. These options came to a screeching halt during the pandemic, but now, we can get back out there with caution.

Let’s take a minute to assess where we were as a nation this time last year in terms of the pandemic and choose to have a grateful heart. At the same time, we must remember and pray for countries that are less fortunate than ours. India, for instance, is in the throes of the pandemic, with many lives lost and still threatened.

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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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

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