Covid-19 - Information for care partners

As a care partner for someone living with dementia, the outbreak of Covid-19 is likely to have been disruptive and challenging for you both. A return to a higher alert level may bring about renewed or increased feelings of anxiety and concern for the future. 

It is okay if you feel worried, anxious or tired.

The most important thing to remember is that while the situation can change quickly, we got through this together before and we will get through it again. Try to keep in mind things that worked well in the past so you are ready for any changes that might occur. 

Get help and support

You are not alone. We are here to help. We have information on a number of topics available below and across our website

Local Alzheimers organisations are still here to support you during this time. Contact them to find out how they can help, and to keep up to date with available services. Find and contact your local organisation here.


Emergency Support Plans

If you don’t already have one, preparing an emergency support plan is still really important. Emergency Support Plans contain essential information to help you and the person you care for if your routine is disrupted.

If you have difficulty filling out parts of it, a family or friend might be able to assist you by phone or email. Once the Plan is completed make sure others know about the plan and where is can be found.

Get an Emergency Support Plan here 


Use of masks and face coverings

For the latest advice around the use of masks and face coverings, see the Unite Against Covid-19 website. 


Looking after yourself

It is really important that you continue to take care of yourself. It’s only by taking care of yourself that you can continue to provide support to someone else. Here are some tips to help you continue to stay well. If you have found things that have helped you cope better during the lockdown, try and continue with them 

Continue to keep in touch with family, whānau and friends. Just make sure you are following the latest advice from the Covid-19 website. Don’t be afraid to ask for support if you need it. 

If the person you support is living in residential care, check in with the facility for any updated advice or procedures around in person visits.

Continue as much as you can with your normal routine especially with activities, mealtimes and bedtimes. This is important for both you and the person you are supporting.

Look into using respite services to help you get a break. If none are available, see if there are any activities that you could schedule into your day that you both enjoy. If your need for a break is becoming urgent, talk to your local organisation or contact your GP.

Take time for yourself by planning an activity or a rest whenever you can.

Enjoy the happy moments, because smiling and laughing makes us feel good and improves oxygen intake, stimulates circulation, as well as relaxing our muscles.

If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious, you can call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Find more information and support on the Mental Health Foundation website. You can also talk to your GP. 


Supporting the person with dementia 

The ongoing disruption of Covid-19 may mean that the person you support is finding it difficult to adjust to day to day life under the changing alert levels. This may lead to further decline in memory and understanding, and deterioration of existing cognitive problems.

The person with dementia may be feeling insecure, anxious or lonely, which may result in increased agitation and hostility. This might take some time to settle. If it continues, you should seek medical assistance from your GP or Healthline.

You may like to try limiting contact with TV, radio and newspaper items that might cause additional worry for the person with dementia.

When to seek medical help

You should always seek medical help immediately if there is a sudden change in consciousness, or if the person is experiencing impaired attention, disturbance in their sleep-wake cycle or any unusual sensory experiences, as these could indicate delirium.

It is also advisable to seek medical help if you have less urgent concerns about the physical health of the person, deterioration in their cognition, or a change in their behaviour or activity patterns.

Day to day needs

  • If you have found support with essential supplies like food and medication helpful over the past few months, find out if these outreach services are still available. 

Staying healthy

  • Washing your hands regularly both at home and while you're out and about is still the best thing you can do to continue to stay healthy.
  • At home, put signs with pictures in the bathroom or toilet reminding everyone to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds. You can find some posters and resources to print off here. You might also like to use a hand moisuriser to help prevent dry or sore skin. 
  • Stand next to the person and wash your hands at the same time to encourage them.
  • Use hand sanitizer (alcohol based) if you are concerned that good hygiene is not being practiced. It should be freely available out and about. 
  • Regularly clean things that are handled a lot, for example, taps, door and cupboard handles, phones and TV remotes.

Keeping connected

  • Take opportunities to see family and friends, or keep in touch by phone, email or video calls. Find out what type of contact is allowed at each alert level here
  • You might like to try planning some topics ahead of time to help the person with dementia keep an active role in the conversation - you might like to talk about memories or favourite hobbies, for example.
  • People with a religious or spiritual background may appreciate sharing a daily spiritual practice.

Activities to try

  • Continue to keep busy at home with activities you enjoy.
  • Exercise is also important for both of you. Try some at home or look into joining a group in your community. See the Live Stronger for Longer website for help and support.
  • Keep going with online activities that you have found helpful. If you still don't feel very confident online, ask family or friends to show you, or to go to a class to get you started.

Find more tips and suggestions below.

If the person you support is unusually restless and unsettled

  • Try and stay calm.
  • Comfort and reassure the person using touch and words. You may find pets or animals can also be reassuring. If you don't have a pet at home you could try watching videos online.
  • Listen to the person, try not to argue with them.
  • Consider what might be causing the person to feel that way - are they hungry, thirsty, tired, to do they want to go to the toilet?
  • Double check that they have taken their prescribed medications.
  • Engage them in an enjoyable or calming activity. You know them best, try and remember what makes them happy.
  • Reach out to the people who make you feel safe and loved - talk to them in a way that works for you.
  • If you think the person might be at all unwell you should call your GP or Healthline.

If the person you care for is in residential care (rest home and hospitals):

The Ministry of Health has provided guidance to these facilities. This is to help keep everyone safe and it is important that the public follow the recommendations. Individual rest homes and hospitals will also be putting in place their own plans.

  • Check in with the facility as to what their current rules and procedures are. Ensure that contact information is up to date for you and others.
  • Understand that the facility may well continue to have extra measures in place around visits - this is to protect the residents and you must follow their advice.
  • You should ask the facility what other means there are of making contact- for example a phone call daily, sending an email which will be read to the person in care.
  • If this is not possible, talk to the facility about how you can get updates and about how you can pass messages on.
  • Think about ways you can continue to provide support from a distance – for example, asking family to email photos to the person in care.

Useful links and resources

Government:
Office for Seniors
Unite Against Covid-19

Ministry of Health
Healthline

Care and social connection:
WeCare.Kiwi

St John Caring Callers
Age Concern
Dementia Alliance International

Day to day needs:
Student Volunteer Army - Grocery Delivery Service

Activities:
Carer Activity Pack - Alzheimers Northland
Online activity ideas - Alzheimers Society UK