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The coronavirus continues to devastate the lives of many, but for those living with dementia, this past year has been an incredibly scary time full of change and uncertainty.

   

In this article we take a look at four areas of importance for those caring for someone with dementia or concerned about the welfare of a loved one who is in a care home – namely, communication, confusion, care and consent.

   

We share some considerations for supporting loved ones with dementia during the ongoing pandemic and also look at how carers or relatives can deal with their upcoming vaccination.

   

Communication

 

On the whole, people with dementia tend to be over the age of 65 and will often be hard of hearing either as a direct result of their dementia or due to old age.

   

Talking through windows, screens or behind face masks and PPE can cause communication problems. To overcome this, whilst still protecting your loved ones, it is important to think about your tone of voice, body language and non-verbal means of communication.

   

Using flash cards, simple sign language, drawing or writing can assist when you need to get across important information. Be aware of shouting or getting frustrated as this can upset those with dementia. Patience and clarity is key.

   

Confusion

 

The last few months have been incredibly confusing for those living with dementia. Memory loss and confusion are very common with those who have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. They may have trouble understanding media reports on covid-19, they might need reminding on the restrictions or some reassurance when going out and about.

   

If you are helping someone with dementia with their shopping it might be worth reminding them of the current restrictions in place. Signs on the floor, everyone wearing masks and one-way-systems can be very daunting for someone with dementia. They may need reminding several times leading up to the event. This can help prevent shock or panic setting in whilst in a shop doorway.

   

Care

 

It is vital to ensure that dementia patients are getting the care that they need during this difficult time. Care plans, treatments and medical appointments should be stuck to as much as possible. The NHS is under pressure with rising Covid cases, but it is important that dementia sufferers still get access to the much-needed health services.  Psychological and physical changes or symptoms should continue to be monitored and reported.

   

The Alzheimer’s Society’s report published in September stated that ‘exhausted’ family and friends spent an extra 92 million hours caring for loved ones with dementia since lockdown. This number is likely to have increased significantly since then with the UK going back into 2 national lockdowns since these surveys were completed.

   

Consent

 

Many people with dementia have mental capacity to make their own decisions and express their wishes. Those with severe dementia or forms of dementia that affect their ability to communicate may need someone to make important decisions on their behalf. This could be in relation to their finances, property, health or welfare.

   

Consent becomes important when those living with dementia need to have medical treatment for covid-19 or receive the vaccination.

   

Those with dementia will be in one of the vulnerable groups due to receive the vaccine early in the roll out programme. Many will have been offered their vaccination already.

   

With some patients lacking the capacity to give their consent, decisions may need to made on their behalf by medical professionals, carers or by their appointed attorney if they have a Health and Welfare LPA. Decisions will be made in their ‘best interest’.

 

Elderly lady with dementia receiving covid-19 vaccination help supporting someone with dementia

Covid-19 Vaccination for Dementia Patients

 

If your loved one is yet to receive their first dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech or The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, then you may have some concerns about their appointment and how to explain what is happening.

   
  • Do some research. It is advisable to do some research ahead of time. Understand the vaccine, the possible side-effects, and the process at your local vaccination centre.
 
  • Prepare for your appointment. Travelling with someone with dementia can be stressful and you are likely to feel anxious about their wellbeing. To make life easier, understand ahead of time what to expect, where to park and what you need to bring with you. This will help reduce your own stress on the day and give you information which you can rely to your loved one.
 
  • Before the appointment, consider what you already know about the person’s past wishes, choices or experiences of vaccinations; for example, do they usually have the annual flu vaccine, or have they had any side effects in the past?
 
  • Fully explain what the vaccination is for and what the benefits are in a way in which they can understand.
 
  • Give them some facts and ask them if they are happy to have the vaccine.
 
  • Explain what will happen to them at each stage. E.g. we are getting in the car now to go to the vaccination centre, we are waiting to be seen now, now the nurse will give you the vaccine which may hurt for a second.
 
  • Use simple, clear language and try to communicate in a calm and positive manner.
 
  • Choose your timing carefully. If you have control over the dates or times of your appointments, try to align with when your loved one is in the best frame of mind to attend. Some people are better in the mornings, or there may be times to avoid such as set mealtimes or when they would usually have a nap. Disruption to routine can be difficult for some.
 
  • Speak to the person administering the vaccine so that they are aware of their condition and dementia stage.
 
  • Consider how you can distract and keep them calm whilst waiting or whilst the jab is being given. Perhaps bringing a familiar item with them, singing a song or listening to a piece of music they enjoy.
 
  • Reassure them after the vaccine using positive body language and communication.
 
  • Keep a close eye on them afterwards for any side-effects or if they struggle with the confusion or anxiety of having the vaccination.
 

If you have any concerns about your loved one receiving the vaccination, then it is important to speak to their GP or care provider ahead of time.

   

Lasting Powers of Attorney & Legal Affairs

 

Many relatives have concerns about how their loved one will continue to live independently or make important decisions after a diagnosis of dementia.

   

In the early stages it is important to explore putting a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place to ensure that someone they trust is appointed to take care of their legal affairs. There are two types of LPA and it is recommended that both are considered, however, it may be that only one is necessary depending on their circumstances.

   

A Property and Finances LPA, quite self-explanatory, addresses any decisions that need to be made about their property or finances. The appointed attorney can manage their bank accounts, assist with selling their property, pay bills and liaise with utility companies etc.

   

A Health & Welfare LPA covers matters relating to their wellbeing, this can include decisions about where they live, care that is provided, medical decisions and their personal care.

   

Both are useful for someone living with dementia who may gradually or suddenly loose the ability to manage these aspects of their life independently.

   

Speak to Us

 

Many of the Lamb Brooks team are ‘Dementia Friends’ having undergone training on this sensitive topic in order to support and communicate with those living with dementia in an understanding way.

   

For more information about LPAs, wills, legal planning, or concerns about capacity, please contact Debbie Duggan on 01256 844888 or email enquiries@lambbrooks.com

 

Other Articles You May Be Interested in Reading:

Do’s and Don’t’s of Dealing With Dementia

How to Explain Dementia to Children

Supporting the Elderly Through Another Lockdown

The Link Between Football & Dementia: Bobby Chalton Diagnosed

 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.