Supporting Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers during social-isolation caused by coronavirus pandemic

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) — For Alzheimer’s patients – and their caregivers – social connection means everything. But, in this time of social-distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, many families are struggling.

“I would take him to the movies twice a week, that was a big deal,” says Armen Arisian who now can’t take his dad, who has Alzheimer’s, on his daily field trips.

So, the Watertown man is trying to make a new routine for the 89-year-old who once played violin in a local symphony.

“It’s weird, Alzheimer’s takes some things away and leaves other things untouched,” he says, noting that his dad’s love of music remains. More and more, experts believe singing lyrics and hearing familiar tunes is therapeutic for patients.

“Use it or lose it, right? We want to make sure people are still engaged in conversation and music and things that can stimulate their brain cells,” says Jennifer Labrie of the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter.

But, today’s landscape is making that very difficult for patients’ in facilities who can’t receive visitors.

Labrie offers tips: make a call to the nursing home and find out the best way to connect virtually via options like Facetime or Skype.

“I feel face-to-face is very important with people with dementia because over the phone they might not recognize a voice but they may recognize a face,” she explains.

And, think of concrete ways to visually stir memories. “I was talking to a woman in one of my support groups and she’s typing an email to her sister in an assisted living community and copying and pasting pictures of their past travels,” says Labrie.

Remember that caregivers are struggling, too. “When I’ve kind of reached my freak-out level, I’ll go for a ride. I’ll just give myself a time-out and go for a ride,” says Arisian.

So, for all of us, showing-up for friends and family – in a facility or at home – is now more important than ever.

“Whether by email or text or Skype, just saying, ‘I’m thinking about you. Don’t forget I’m here,'” says Labrie.

Click here to find an online support group.

And, check out this link for ideas for home activities for an Alzheimer’s patient.

You can always call the Alzheimer’s Association’s hotline at 1-800-272-3900 for support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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