With most of the family staying home during this period, persons with dementia might be confused or stressed by the changes in their daily environment and routine. As caregivers, it is important to reassure them and find ways to reduce the factors that affect their mood.
The presence of more family members at home during the day might leave persons with dementia confused; the increase in noise and activity might also be distressing to your loved ones. In order to properly respond to mood changes in your loved ones, it’s important to understand that this is normal; remember that dementia can be disorientating, and little changes like that can be more stressful than you would imagine.
You should check-in with your loved ones from time to time on how they’re feeling; if they find it difficult to be open with their emotions, try to observe their non-verbal cues to see if there are any signs of anxiety or distress. Are they pacing more, frowning throughout the day, or displaying other changes in moods that they don’t normally show?
If your loved one does seem anxious, try to give them reassurance; acknowledge their feelings and talk about how these changes do not mean they cannot do the day-to-day activities that they enjoy around the house. If your family member with dementia is less open to talking about their feelings, try approaching it more subtly; perhaps you can bring up the topic yourself, saying something like “The house is more busy now since everyone is working from home, would you like to move to a quieter corner of the house for your meal?”
As far as possible, your other family members should also take steps to avoid overwhelming your loved ones. If there is enough space in a study room or in their bedrooms, they could try and work within those rooms throughout the day to reduce the amount of activity in your loved one’s usual spaces. Avoid making loud sounds like closing the door violently or shouting while on voice calls that might give your loved one a shock.
Outside of the home, persons with dementia might feel frightened or anxious at the sight of more people wearing masks. Try to allay their anxiety by staying close to them and being a supportive presence; if possible, you can try turning it into a light-hearted conversation about how everyone else is wearing masks, just like you and your loved ones are.
Mood changes can also result from having to stay at home, especially if your loved one previously had a routine of going out for a walk in the park daily, or attended day care activities regularly on weekdays. Watch for these, and try distracting them with activities in order to minimise their anxiety from having their routine broken.
During this period, it’s important to take extra care to note physical signs of discomfort which might result from additional stress or changes to your loved one’s routine. For example, your loved one might be experiencing more aches, seem fatigued from changes to their sleep cycle, or become dehydrated if they are drinking less. Respond to these early, and reach out to your loved one’s primary doctor or nurse to discuss their condition and see what the recommended response should be.
For more information, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Dementia Helpline at 6377 0700, Monday to Friday (9am to 6pm).