Dementia - Enjoying life and staying safe during pandemic

As part of World Alzheimer Month this September, The Echo, in partnership with the HSE’s Dementia: Understand Together campaign, is featuring a series of articles on aspects of life with dementia. In this second article, we focus on living well despite these challenging times.

By Emma O’Brien, HSE Occupational Therapist

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our day-to-day living, health and well-being.

Many of us are spending more time at home, have reduced contact with others and are participating in fewer social activities.

Dementia music image courtesy Alzheimer Society of Ireland 1

Listening to music has been taken up to help with connection Photo courtesy Alzheimer Society of Ireland

For people with dementia and their families, the impact has been particularly challenging.

Recent research by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland shows that some people with dementia have been struggling with loneliness and boredom and that their condition may be progressing due to a lack of stimulation.

Some have found it hard to understand why friends have not been visiting.

Being Engaged

Like everyone else, engaging socially and participating in activities provides purpose and value for people with dementia, as well as an opportunity for achievement and pleasure. Staying connected to loved ones and enjoying pastimes can help a person with dementia retain a sense of self and independence. 

As dementia progresses it can become difficult for a person to communicate their needs. It is important for family members and carers to look out for signs and to try to understand why the person is behaving in that way.

Dementia Emma OBrien HSE Occupational Therapist 1

Emma O'Brien, HSE Occupational Therapist

Being Creative

In recent months, some family members have moved home to support loved ones.

Others have learned how to use technology to reach out. New activities such as gardening and listening to music have been taken up to help with connection.

At the same time, many dementia services have had to re-imagine how they engage with people.

They have created online supports such as Virtual Dementia Cafés and online choirs. The Dementia: Understand Together campaign recently released an updated At Home Activities booklet with ideas for stimulation and reminiscence.

Being Supportive

Since August 18, people over 70 and people who are medically vulnerable are advised to limit their interactions to a small network, avoid public transport and shop during designated hours.

If supporting a person with dementia, help them to stay safe by planning ahead if going out.

Understand Together campaign

The Dementia: Understand Together campaign is led by the HSE in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Age Friendly Ireland.

For information on supports such as weekly Virtual Dementia Cafés for people living with dementia and family carers, as well as information on how to become a dementia champion in your community, visit www.understandtogether.ie or Freefone 1800 341 341 (Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm).

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