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Preserving routines: Tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers during pandemic

Staff Report | April 1, 2020 10:24 PM

NEW YORK — The ongoing coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak is disrupting many parts of daily life for everyone, but those challenges are magnified for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease. Changes in daily routines can lead to anxiety, confusion, agitation or discomfort, which is why the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is offering tips to family caregivers about ways to adapt.

“There is often comfort in the familiar,” said Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., AFA’s president and CEO, in a press release. “As we all adjust to the ‘new normal’ created by the coronavirus outbreak, caregivers should know about steps they can take to adapt routines and help their loved ones stay calm and comfortable.”

Here are steps caregivers can take:

Maintain schedules: If your loved one is used to getting up, eating meals and going to bed at set times, stick to that schedule as much as possible.

Bring outside destinations inside: If the person regularly eats at a favorite restaurant on a certain day of the week, order in from that restaurant or cook a dish they like to order.

Keep the person active: Many adult day- and respite-care programs are closed to protect public health, but doing similar activities at home can be beneficial. If the person normally goes to a program at a certain time, do activities that he or she would usually do during that time period, such as listen to music, dance or exercise). AFA is also offering these types of programs through the internet.

Remain connected: Use video calls, phone calls or text messages to keep the person connected with family and friends who would normally visit in person. If someone calls regularly because they live out of town, try to keep the contact during the usual time slot.

Utilize familiarity: Surrounding the person with familiar and positive items, food, music and clothing can be comforting and help reduce potential anxiety and stress.

Be supportive: Your own body language and attitude can influence the behavior of the person for whom you are caring. Remaining calm and attentive and showing the person love and care can help them adapt to the changes.

Create a daily schedule with lots of visual cues, such as photos, stickers and drawings. Create a regular schedule of what the person will be doing every hour, or every half hour, and review it with them and revisit it regularly.

AFA’s helpline, staffed by licensed social workers trained in dementia care, is open seven days a week to help provide tips about adapting routines, caregiving during the coronavirus outbreak and more. The helpline can be reached by calling 866-232-8484 or visiting and clicking the blue-and-white chat icon in the right-hand corner of the page.

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