The theme this year for dementia awareness month is ‘you are not alone’. For a person with dementia, their family and other carers, one of the hardest changes after diagnosis is a sense of isolation, and knowing they are not alone in their journey is an important aspect of living with this disease.
Anyone who has had a family member or friend with dementia can tell you how devastating it can be, both to the sufferer and to those who are close to them. Dementia can rob people of their memories, affect their perception, their reasoning and their cognition. This inevitably leaves them unable to carry out everyday tasks and can leave them feeling overwhelmed and very alone.
The current Covid pandemic has brought numerous extra challenges for those living with dementia and their carers. People with dementia are some of the most physically vulnerable in society, placing them at high-risk of contracting the virus, and the rapid nature of the pandemic has generated further uncertainty for those with dementia, and their carers. People with dementia are already isolated, and with Covid restrictions enforcing long periods of physical isolation, their worlds have shrunk even further. The slightest social interaction can make the day of someone with dementia. Restrictions on social gatherings have also meant carers cannot attend their usual support groups, or engage in the activities that helped provide them some respite.
Here are a few ways you can show people with dementia, or their carers and loved ones, they aren’t alone:
- Educate yourself about dementia – learn about the effects and how to respond
- Include the person with dementia in conversation, even as their communication skills decline
- Stay in touch – just a call or SMS, or a thoughtful card can show you care
- Offer a shoulder to lean on. Simply offering your friendship, or a willing ear can provide much needed comfort
- Help tackle to-do-lists for the family or carer/s
- Invite carers or family members to join you in social or leisure activities, even if you know they may decline the offer. Just the invitation shows you care and can make a world of difference
- Offer respite by spending time with the person with dementia so the carer or family members can spend time alone or with their friends
- Be flexible and patient. They may not be able to accept your help now but give them space and time and reach out at a later time.