Now that we are all starting to come out of lockdown and meeting up with loved ones again, it’s important to remember that for those with dementia this is still a difficult and worrying time. Change is always hard and although it can be wonderful to make contact and be a real mental boost, it can bring anxiety and uncertainty, too.
If your loved one is in a carehome, you probably already know that the rules for visiting changed in April. Now, every resident can name up to two people who can come for regular indoor visits. Named visitors will need to follow some important steps to reduce the risk of infection to the person they are visiting and to others in the care home. These include taking a rapid lateral flow test every time you visit; wearing PPE (mask, gloves, apron) during the visit; and maintaining social distancing when walking through the home. You are allowed to hold hands but prolonged close contact is discouraged. This is tough of course, and loved ones may find this really hard to understand. You can ask care homes to try to prepare your loved ones in advance for the limits on physical closeness.
For those who have loved ones living outside of care homes, you will probably be keen to take them out for a drink or bite to eat. As of April 12, in England, cafes and restaurants can serve you while you sit outside at their premises. You should still take masks in case you need to go inside (for the loo, for example, which is permitted). Even if the sun is out, make sure to take enough blankets/hats/gloves to keep yourselves warm as it can be extremely chilly when sitting still without moving! Take things slowly, one step at a time. Many people are reporting anxiety increasing as lockdown lifts, wondering how they will cope with re-entering the ‘real world’. This can be even worse for those with dementia. Don’t try to visit a National Trust property, do a big walk and have lunch all on one day – just focus on one thing – perhaps a tea, or a drink in a beer garden – and make that the only activity for the day. If your loved one has spent most of the past year alone, this will be enough; any more could be overwhelming.
Depression and loss of confidence are common and expected reactions to coming out of lockdown for many people. Social situations can be anxiety-inducing, so remember to take your time when re-introducing routines and outings. And do also bear in mind that the dementia may have progressed over the three lockdowns to the point where certain activities or behaviours are much more difficult than they were before. This might mean that adaptations will need to be made to help your loved one live as well as they can with the skills and abilities that they have.
We can hopefully all look forward to spending much more time with our loved ones in 2021 – please let us know if you have any more tips on easing out of lockdown with them!