DEMENTIA UK is experiencing a rise in calls to its Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline from people looking after someone with dementia who are worried about the coronavirus.

Families with dementia are feeling particularly vulnerable and challenged by the evolving situation, and the confinement measures now in place.

Regular support networks such as carer groups, day centres and activities have shut down. Friends and other relatives are being advised not to visit. For many family carers, this means they will get no respite at all – and caring for someone with dementia can be a physically and emotionally challenging, 24-hour-a-day job.

The person with dementia may experience increased agitation and confusion, as their routines change.

Anyone who has any worries about looking after someone with dementia that they live with, or who lives on their own, can call the dementia specialist nurses on Dementia UK’s Helpline, on 0800 888 6678, or helpline@dementiauk.org. The Helpline is open seven days a week, 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am-5pm on weekends.

Here are some questions that are representative of those in the last few days:

I look after my husband at home who has dementia, and our weekly carer’s group has now disbanded. What are we going to do?

It’s essential to stay connected to people. Set up regular Skype calls with friends and family, so you’re staying in touch and have something to look forward to. Keep yourselves entertained and active, even if this just means a walk around the garden or even your home.

My wife has dementia, alongside other health conditions, so we are self-isolating for 16 weeks. What can we do at home to try and look after ourselves, mentally and physically?

It’s essential to be informed about the latest advice, but if it’s making you feel anxious, turn off the news. You can read any changes on the government website and from Public Health England. The best thing you can do for you both is to stay calm, stay active and stay entertained. Set up different areas around the house to watch favourite films, listen to music, do jigsaws, and perhaps follow yoga or aerobics videos from the internet. Take a walk around the garden, if you have one.

My relative has an underlying health condition alongside their dementia. How do I minimise the risk of them needing to go to the hospital? 

The advice on maintaining good hygiene is particularly important in these circumstances. You can follow Public Health England’s guidance, which recommends regular hand washing as well as avoiding contact with those who are unwell.

If you are worried that medication may run out, consider ordering it in advance and storing it in a safe place. This advice also applies to any medical aids, such as inhalers for people with asthma. Keep spares of these in the home wherever possible.

I am worried about my friend, who has dementia and lives alone. What can I do for them? 

Speak to them as often as possible. Explain that there is a virus going around, in simple and straightforward sentences. Be reassuring and tell them that you will go and see them as soon as you are able. In the interim, try and arrange for groceries to be delivered, repeat prescriptions if possible, and for close neighbours to keep an eye out for anything unusual. You could look into becoming the person’s proxy for medical matters – so that their GP can speak to you. But you need to register with their GP to do so, and this is, of course, a hectic time.

Dr Hilda Hayo, Chief Admiral Nurse and CEO of Dementia UK, told Charity Today:

“It might not be easy to get a person with dementia to understand the need for isolation during the coronavirus outbreak. Looking after someone with dementia can be incredibly challenging. If you know that someone who lives near you has dementia, please offer to help them during this difficult time. Please call the dementia specialist nurses on our Helpline if you are not sure how.”

For more information about Dementia UK’s Urgent Helpline Appeal, click here.