Covid-19 - Information for care partners

As a care partner for someone living with dementia, you may continue to find the changes brought about by Covid-19 disruptive and challenging. 

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. Services on offer include regular check ins through phone, email and some limited face to face visits, as well as continued online activity and support groups. Reach out and talk to them about what's available. 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 


Looking after yourself

It is really important that you take care of yourself. It’s only by taking care of yourself that you can continue to provide support to someone else.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating well, getting adequate rest and sleep, and try and remain as physically active as you can.

Stay socially connected to family, whānau and friends. Just make sure you are following the latest advice from the Covid-19 website around in-person visits. Otherwise, stay in contact by phone, email or video calls. Don’t be afraid to ask for support from them if you need it.

Try and maintain a normal routine especially with activities, mealtimes and bedtimes. This is important for both you and the person you are supporting.

Consider alternatives to the usual respite services, such as activities that you could schedule into that time that give you both pleasure. If your need for respite is becoming more urgent, talk to your local Alzheimers organisation or contact your GP. 

Take time for yourself by planning an activity or a rest period 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 person you support may be experiencing issues relating to:

  • Changes in routines, daily activities and sleep disturbances
  • Lack of regular face to face contact with friends, whanau and family
  • Feeling anxious as a result of media coverage or conversations with others

For people living with dementia these changes can lead to further decline in memory and understanding, and deterioration of existing cognitive problems. A person with dementia may also find that social isolation leads to feelings of insecurity and anxiety, which can result in increased agitation and hostility.

Declining memory and understanding can also result in poor understanding of hygiene needs, lack of cooperation with care and support and conflict with care partners.

Try and limit contact with TV, radio and newspaper items that might cause worry or anxiety for the person with dementia.

When to seek medical help

You should 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

  • Find out what help and support is available to help you with essential supplies like groceries and medications. Talk to your local pharmacy or store about what they are organising. These services are there to help you and you may well be able to ring ahead or pre-order online anything you need.  
  • Ensure that the person’s basic needs are being met, such as food, fluids, safety and rest.

Staying healthy

  • Washing your hands regularly both at home and while you're out and about is the best thing you can do 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.
  • Write ‘No’ on the back of their hands to remind them not to touch their face.
  • 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.
  • Clean any items that have been delivered, for example, pharmacy deliveries, groceries or items from couriers

Keeping connected

  • Stay connected with others by phone, email or video calls, and make sure you are adhering to the latest guidelines around in-person contact. 
  • Plan some topics ahead of this to help the person with dementia play 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 – many places of worship are offering online or telephone support.

Activities to try

  • Keep busy at home with activities like reading, doing puzzles, listening to music, crafts or gardening. Setting activities up in different rooms can help you get a change of scenery.
  • Try some exercises at home. Listen to your body, start slowly and if you are in pain at any point, stop the activity. See the Live Stronger for Longer website for help and support. 
  • Have a go at some free online activities 
  • Have a memory day by creating a collection of your favourite music or sorting through old photos. 

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 to reduce the transmission of Covid-19. The guidance is for the health and safety of the residents and the staff and it is important that the public follow the recommendations:

  • Check in with the facility as to what their procedures are for managing Covid-19, ensuring 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 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