COVID-19 Silver Linings of Dementia
And the frustration of the “no visitor” policies in effect at facilities
We are all grasping for “sweet spots” in the redesign of our lives during the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Hunkering down, isolating, stocking up as never before. What will be the outcome and how long will it last? The unknown seems to be the worst for all of us, not knowing what the future holds. Added to this is the emotional impact on family members who are currently not being allowed to visit dementia facilities. These policies have been implemented for the protection of the most vulnerable population. But these are the very people we have vowed to love and protect by our presence.
That’s where the “silver lining” of dementia sits up and smiles. What is robbed from dementia is past memories and future worries. These are stripped away and replaced with the present. I recall my father asking my mom what she did yesterday. She looked him straight in the eye, smiled her sweet smile, and said “I don’t need to know that.” So true! That, for all of us who worry, is the point. It’s the present that has value to our loved ones with memory loss.
So, as much as you worry about extended time away from your family member, it’s likely that many with dementia don’t recall if it’s been an hour, a day, or a month since you last visited. You know that from past experience – hearing your mom cry over no visits when you left her an hour before. The painful concern over facility visiting restrictions is more your worry than the reality of your loved one. Therefore, it allows you to focus your energy on what you can do to make their present more enjoyable. Some possibilities include:
- Delivering a special treat to the facility for them to take to your loved one: warm cookies or their favorite snack,
- Providing a small hand-held size photo album with their name on the outside and photos with captions that have meaning,
- Driving your loved-one around to get a milkshake or ice cream cone (if allowed),
- Calling every day to share interesting adventures that cause a smile or a laugh,
- Using face-time to see and be seen.
If your loved one questions your absence, it’s best to simply say you’re staying away for the height of the flu season. An in-depth explanation of Coronavirus regulations would not be productive and could cause fear.
And, during this time of social distancing, take care of yourself! When the restrictions are lifted, you want to be well and ready to reengage.