The Alzheimer Society of B.C. is urging residents not to forget about those living with dementia and their caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During this time of increased isolation, many people affected by dementia may feel disconnected from support networks and will face unexpected challenges,” said Mary Beth Rutherford, regional support and education coordinator for the South Okanagan and Similkameen.
The society is offering free weekly webinars to address long-distance caregiving.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia affects the whole family.
“A person living with dementia needs more and more help as the disease progresses — and family members are often the first people to provide this help,” said Rutherford. “However, when family members aren’t living with the person – often in other cities, provinces or even countries – caregiving can present special challenges, even under normal circumstances. Long-distance caregiving is even more of a challenge in these uncertain times.”
Caring for someone long distance is even more complicated now that physical distancing and travel restrictions are in place. Staying in touch requires regular communication. Staying in touch from a distance requires regular communication and involving others to help.
Here are some suggestions:
• Establish a routine: An established routine can be reassuring for everyone. Make a video call with FaceTime or other software, call or write letters or emails to exchange news and find out how things are going. Keep in mind, however, that equipment may only be useful for those in the early stages of the disease.
• Contact the health-care provider: Arrange to meet the person’s health-care provider to get to know them. Establish a way to keep in contact.
• Maintain contact with other caregivers: Stay in touch with any caregivers nearby. This may include a neighbour, a friend, or a relative who lives with, or near, your family member. It could also be a social worker or a staff person from a local Alzheimer Society. Be sure to let these people know that you appreciate their help. Keep in mind the different viewpoints of close and distant relatives. On the one hand, you may be the first to notice a problem. Confusion or memory loss may have developed so gradually that others may not have noticed the change. On the other hand, because you are not there every day, you may not realize how difficult the situation is for the regular caregiver.
• Support each other: If another family member is providing care, talk with them and offer your support. Try to understand each other’s feelings and points of view and talk over what can be done. Find ways to support each other and to share responsibilities.
To learn more about caregiving while physically separate from a person living with dementia or other topics related to the disease, the Alzheimer Society of B.C. invites you to sign up for free webinars. Upcoming webinars include:
• “Why do I feel this way?” Coping with changes brought by dementia (Wednesday, May 20, 2 p.m.): Explore change and loss and the uncertainty of the dementia experience.
• Accessing care services during COVID-19 (Friday, May 27, 2 p.m.): Learn strategies for navigating changes in accessing services and how to get the most out of your interactions with care providers.
To register for any of these webinars, please visit alzbc.org/webinars.
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