Most likely, dementia does not increase risk for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, just like dementia does not increase risk for flu. However, dementia-related behaviors, increased age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia may increase risk.
For example, people with Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementia may forget to wash their hands or take other recommended precautions to prevent illness. In addition, diseases like COVID-19 and the flu may worsen cognitive impairment due to dementia.
Tips for dementia caregivers at home
Caregivers of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and all other dementia should follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and consider the following tips:
- For people living with dementia, increased confusion is often the first symptom of any illness. If a person living with dementia shows rapidly increased confusion, contact your health care provider for advice. Unless the person is having difficulty breathing or a very high fever, it is recommended that you call your health care provider instead of going directly to an emergency room. Your doctor may be able to treat the person without a visit to the hospital.
- People living with dementia may need extra and/or written reminders and support to remember important hygienic practices from one day to the next.
- Consider placing signs in the bathroom and elsewhere to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds.
- Demonstrate thorough hand-washing.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be a quick alternative to hand-washing if the person with dementia cannot get to a sink or wash his/her hands easily.
- Ask your pharmacist or doctor about filling prescriptions for a greater number of days to reduce trips to the pharmacy.
- Think ahead and make alternative plans for the person with dementia should adult day care, respite, etc. be modified or cancelled in response to COVID-19.
- Think ahead and make alternative plans for care management if the primary caregiver should become sick.
Tips for supporting persons with dementia who receive home-based services
If you currently receive or plan to receive services from a paid health care professional in your home:
- Contact the home health care provider and ask them to explain their protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- Check the home health care professional’s temperature before they enter your home. Anyone with a temperature over 100.4° F should be excluded from providing care.
- Ask the health care professional if they have been exposed to anyone who has tested positive and if so, do not allow them into your home.
- Ensure that the health care professional washes their hands upon arrival and regularly throughout their time in your home.
- Ask the health care professional to wear a mask.
- Be aware that bringing anyone into your home increases the risk of spreading COVID-19, even if CDC guidance is followed.
For more information, go to alz.org.