REAL Services is dedicated to helping elderly and low-income people during the COVID-19 pandemic and always. If you or someone you love needs support, call REAL Services at 574-233-8205 or toll-free at 800-552-2916.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to adjust to a new normal, from wearing masks in public to using copious amounts of hand sanitizer and other cleaning products.
While it can be hard enough to look after yourself during the pandemic, there are many caregivers and family members who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
This group is particularly vulnerable. Not only does the virus seem to target people over the age of 60, but people with Alzheimer’s or dementia also often rely on the care and support of others. When access to most of the outside world is taken away, they feel even more isolated than ever.
As caregivers and family members have had to adjust the safekeeping they provide for their loved ones, REAL Services has been there every step of the way, offering tips and advice.
Across the 11 counties, REAL Services runs 22 different support groups, all of which have moved online.
These groups are vital for caregivers and family members of Alzheimer’s patients. They allow them to feel supported, while also provided tips on how to improve the care they provide.
“Fortunately, we’re a technological society, and that works out pretty well,” said Angel Baginske, the Director of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Services, a division of REAL Services. “We’ve been able to continue to meet the needs of not only our family caregivers but also our professional caregivers, who are dealing with increased situations in their respective facilities.”
Baginske says she also saw a 400 percent increase in the number of calls its hotline receive during the second week of the pandemic. REAL Services and ALZNI answered every call.
Experiencing Social Connections
While social distancing, it’s still essential for Alzheimer’s patients to experience the outside world, whether that be through virtual hangouts with family members or trying to find ways to partake in their favorite activities, especially if those activities were part of their everyday routine.
For instance, if they’re accustomed to seeing their grandkids on a certain day every week for dinner, then it’s a good idea to schedule a Zoom, Skype or FaceTime video call on that same day.
This same strategy can also be applied to eating out, assuming that the restaurants they frequent still offer carryout orders during the pandemic. If they typically eat at Olive Garden on Wednesday, then you can still order them Olive Garden to go. It may not be the same as going in person, but it’s the next best option.
“We’ve seen some cute things caregivers have done where their person with Alzheimer’s likes to go shopping, so they set up a little store in their house and they have them go shopping with a list and it kind of helps a little bit,” Baginske said. “It’s not the same but it does help.”
It’s also important that caregivers are mindful of their own self-care, which may include setting up their own virtual calls with friends, going for walks outside or finding other relaxing activities.
Have a Crisis Plan
“Our biggest tip to our caregivers right now is something that they never think about because they are the primary caregiver and they worry about their loved one,” Baginske said. “Have a crisis plan in place for yourself. So what happens if you become sick and you are in the hospital. What is their backup plan for your loved one?”
Now, more than ever, it’s important for you, as a caregiver, to be willing to ask for help, whether that be for a family member in friends. You should know well before anything happens who will take care of your person with Alzheimer’s well before anything happens to you.
As a self-sufficient and responsible person, this can be difficult to think about because you’ve always been reliable but, especially during the pandemic, there are circumstances where you might be unable to help out. It’s important to be prepared for that.