Some Useful Guidance on How to Support Someone With Dementia During Lockdown

Are you worried about family or friends with dementia during this challenging time of Corona Virus? We are aware that lockdown measures makes life extremely difficult along with the problems caused by isolation at this time.

Supporting someone with Dementia from a distance

Many people will have family or friends with dementia and be worried.

Help is available but you should not visit a person with dementia or their carer at home just to see them – the risks of passing on or catching coronavirus are too high. But you can and should still stay in touch, help out and drop things off if they live nearby. There’s a lot you can do to help the person and anyone in their household. 

Tips for supporting someone at distance 

Make sure they know how much help is available. Check they have a plan and know who to contact. If you know trusted neighbours or friends, ask them to pop a note through the door to offer help. 

Look for community support groups in their area. 

Consider printing off and posting online advice (or the hygiene poster) if that would help. You can order all our dementia publications to be delivered direct to their door.  

Help them set up ways to connect with you. You can do this by phone, post, text, email or using systems such as Skype. Use whichever method is most comfortable for you and the person. Apps and social media platforms that allow the person to use video calling such as Skype, WhatsApp and Zoom might be worth a try. Seeing someone’s face as well as hearing their voice can help them feel closer. You could arrange this at a regular time of day to connect, to help give the person structure and something to look forward to. 

Look to help them as much online – including shopping for the essentials –  if you can. If they have difficulty getting a delivery slot, you can complete the NHS Volunteers scheme form to ask for groceries or medicine to be delivered at home.

Ask whether having a ‘third party mandate’ – where you have temporary access to the person’s bank account – would help with banking and paying for deliveries online. Talk to the bank because the person will need to complete a form, and have capacity to do this. If you are an attorney then you may already have this legal power.  

Warn them about potential scams and mis-selling by phone and online. Sadly, some people are using the pandemic to target vulnerable people.

Living Alone with Dementia

If you live alone, there are lots of reasons to keep doing so after a diagnosis of dementia. You may feel happier and more in control in a familiar place, or you may want to keep your routines and stay in your community. Keeping your independence may also be important to you.

You may need to think a bit more about some things, such as how to stay in touch with people or manage day-to-day tasks, but you can continue to be safe, independent and in touch while living alone.

Some people with dementia choose to live alone. You may enjoy your lifestyle as it is now and want to remain independent and in your own home. Some people live alone because of their circumstances. You may find yourself alone after a partner has died, or someone you lived with has moved out. You may not have a partner, family or friends you can move in with. You might live in a rural area, where it can be harder to get to the nearest shop or to visit people. Or you might live in a city where there is better transport but less sense of community.

Everyone’s situation will be different, but if you are living alone with dementia then this page will be useful regardless of where you live, why you live alone or how much support you have. In it we explain some of the things you may want to think about if you live alone. We outline practical strategies for dealing with the challenges you may come across, and the help and support that is available to you. By taking some of these small steps you will be able to stay independent for longer.

A good support network

Having a good support network in place can really help when you live alone. This can include family, friends, neighbours or professionals. They might offer help with practical things you find difficult, look out for your wellbeing, or just be there to talk to and spend time with you.

Asking for and accepting help can be difficult. You may feel that it will stop you being independent. However, having people around who can help you, if you need it, will mean you can stay living alone for longer.

You may have lots of people who are there for you. But if you haven’t, it can be a good idea to put support in place as soon as you feel ready. You might not need much help right now, but talking to people about your diagnosis as soon as you feel ready can be reassuring. That way you will know there is help and support on hand when you do.

Tips for building a support network

Talk to people about how they can help you and what would be best for you. You can focus on what you can still do, and they can help with some of the things you find more difficult. This might be remembering to take your medication, managing the garden or shopping for food.

Consider telling people about your diagnosis, so they can offer you support if you need it. When people understand, they will be able to offer you help and make sure it is tailored to your needs.

If you don’t have family or friends who can help you, you may want to speak to other people in your community, such as neighbours, shopkeepers, people from a place of worship or your pharmacist or landlord. They may be able to help with things like lifts into town, shopping, gardening or simply calling in or phoning to see how you are.

If you don’t feel comfortable telling people about your diagnosis, you could just say that you need a bit of help with some things from time to time.

  • Keep a list of contacts by your phone so you can reach them if you need to.
  • Leave a set of keys with a neighbour you trust.
  • Find out what support is available where you live. This could be from social services, a homecare agency or a local charity (such as Age Concern). . 

Staying in touch

You shouldn’t feel cut off or isolated from other people just because you live alone. Having dementia can make it harder to do things, and this can mean that you see people less than you used to. It may be even more difficult if you live in a rural area and don’t have people or services you can get to. However, there are still things you can do to stop yourself feeling isolated.

Getting out of the house and seeing other people, continuing to enjoy your hobbies, or just keeping in touch with friends and family are all important. 

Tips for staying in touch

Talk to other people regularly. You could arrange regular phone calls ,

If you have a computer, smart phone or tablet, consider using a video calling programme such as Skype or social media to stay in touch with people. You may prefer Skype to a phone call because you can see the person you’re talking to.

Going to a local support or activity group is a really good way of staying socially active. You might also meet new people who are in a similar situation. If you use the internet you may find an online support group helpful. There are also video conferencing support groups available on Facebook and Zoom that you might want to try.

See if there are any befriending opportunities in your area,

A befriender is someone who comes and spends time with you regularly, either in your home or out in the community. This can allow you to continue your hobbies, take part in activities, or just have some companionship. You could also consider telephone befriending, where someone phones you regularly, until after the pandemic

If you don’t have any relatives or friends, or if you are no longer in touch, there are still ways of getting emotional support. Online communities or forums allow you to talk to other people with dementia. They can be a useful source of support, and there will be lots of other people who are in a similar situation. Alzheimer’s Society’s online community Talking Point is a good place to start.

Small things such as going to the local shop to buy a paper each day can give you a chance to talk to someone and to feel more involved in the community.

Coronavirus: Supporting a person with dementia in a care home 

Staying in touch with someone in a care home is made much harder by the pandemic. This guidance for friends and family should help you stay connected.

Some people with dementia will get coronavirus at home, go into hospital and then be discharged into a care home for the support they need. There is extra demand for hospital beds now, so admission to a care home is likely to happen quickly.

Under the new NHS guidance on hospital discharge, the care home must be able to provide care and support to keep the person safe and well. But it may not be the home you or the person would have chosen. The NHS will pay the fees while the pandemic lasts and won’t ask the person to pay them back in the future. In future they might move to a different care home. You may want to read some general guidance about finding and choosing care homes.

For now, you can help them settle into the care home they’ve been placed in, wherever the person is moving from. You may be able to send in familiar objects, foods or items that provide comfort – but check with the home first. They may set deliveries aside for a day or so to be sure that any possible virus on them has died. So allow extra time if you’re sending a birthday or anniversary card.

The information below applies whether the person with dementia has just moved in or has been living in the care home since before the pandemic.

Visiting a care home during the coronavirus pandemic

Visits to care homes by family and friends are now very severely restricted. This is to protect you, the staff and especially the residents from the virus. Care home staff should tell you about these changes.

The only reason that you will be allowed to visit is if you are next of kin and the situation is exceptional – for example, the person is nearing the end of their life. Even then only one person can visit at once, and you must:

  • wash your hands on entering and leaving
  • follow good respiratory hygiene – cough or sneeze into a tissue and then bin it
  • avoid being within two metres (three steps) of other staff and residents for more than a few minutes
  • go straight to the person’s room on arrival and leave the home straight after your visit.
  • You may also be asked to wear protective items such as a face mask and gloves.

Even if you are not able to visit, the home should be able to help with other ways for all residents, family and staff to keep in touch.

Keeping in touch when you can’t visit a care home

It’s natural to be worried about the person and how they are during the pandemic.

Speak to staff about the best way to get updates. Staff are likely to be very busy, so they may ask you to call at a set time.

You may be able to speak to the person direct by phone or through video technology such as Skype or Zoom. You can also stay in touch by writing or posting photos for staff to share with the person.

If the person is likely to become agitated, ask if you can send favourite objects from home such as family photos or sensory items such as Fidget Widgets©. Staff may appreciate these as a distraction or way of comforting or reassuring the person. You can find these in our online Shop or at Active minds.

Coronavirus: Activity ideas for people living with dementia 

Keeping active and purposeful when staying at home will help fight off boredom and frustration. Here are some activities you can try at home.

Online and digital activities

Technology such as smartphones, laptops, tablets and games consoles offer a variety of ways to pass the time and keep engaged and stimulated. Some are for everyone and some are specially designed for people living with dementia.  

Virtual assistant devices (for example Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant) can be useful and provide entertainment and information. See our information (for people living with dementia) on assistive technology for more details on this. 

If listening to music is for you, BBC Music Memories can help people with dementia reconnect with their most powerful memories. The site also has BBC Memory Radio and these are also available on BBC Sounds – just search for Memory Radio. 

You could make a playlist of favourite songs and music. Playlist for Life has information about music and dementia, and advice about how and when to listen to it.  If you already attend one of our Singing for the Brain groups, find out more about our virtual sessions, adapted for people in their own homes.  

Many broadcasters and arts institutions are making their media free or offering a range of things to watch and listen to. For example, the BBC has increased the content available on iPlayer.

You can also try Spotify or YouTube. YouTube has a karaoke feature, or you can watch clips about specific decades, film stars or sports.  It is also streaming (showing) free performances from the National Theatre and some Lloyd Webber musicals. These are available for set time periods. You can watch YouTube on any device with online access or as an app on some TVs. 

Many people with dementia will enjoy reminiscence and life story work in some way. At My House of Memories, you can create a ‘memory tree’ with objects, photos and videos. You could also visit the BBC Reminiscence Archive or British Film Institute (BFI) archive, which can help to spark favourite memories. Talk to the person about what they recall and enjoy. 

Researching a family tree can be rewarding, and you can share it online with older children or grandchildren. Perhaps you can use this time to record the person talking about their life history using a phone or tablet. As with all reminiscence, be mindful of sad memories that the person may not want to discuss.   

You can also use a tablet or mobile device to download creative and activity apps designed for people with dementia. 

Some people will enjoy motion-based gaming systems (including Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect) to provide enjoyable online group activities.

If you want people to read your dementia story, consider writing a blog. 

If the person enjoys audio books, Amazon are offering free audio books through Audible for a limited time.

Activities in and around the home

While the person is indoors, encourage them to stay active. They may be able to help with preparing food, cooking and other household tasks. Also consider different forms of exercise – 

Sport England has developed further suggestions for how to remain active while people are staying at home because of coronavirus. They are also broadcasting a daily 10-minute activity session (10 today) on BBC Radio 5 Live, which is designed for older adults. You can also listen to this online too.

If you’re new to dancing and interested in learning, The Royal Academy of Dance has created Silver Swans – a beginner’s dance class you can do online. Remember that if you are making room or clearing an area for exercising or dancing, beware of trip hazards. 

Love to Move is a seated gymnastics programme for people living with dementia. You can download the pack to try activities at home.

You can still use your garden if you have one – you could plant some seeds (indoors or out) and look forward to seeing them grow.

Even with the new rules, anyone can go outdoors to exercise once a day – so long as they stay away from people not in their household. So, go for a walk together if you can or even something more active. Fresh air will help lift your spirits.

When you’re looking at other activities, try to make sure the person has activities based on their interests and preferences. Ideas include: 

  • reading
  • browsing magazines 
  • doing jigsaws 
  • listening to music 
  • going online or using apps
  • knitting 
  • enjoying their favourite TV/radio programmes or films on DVD. 

Puzzles and games that keep the mind active and engaged can be helpful, and a good distraction from the news. Our online shop has a variety of products like this specifically for people with dementia. A routine to do these at set times can help the time pass. 

If the person you care for likes to read but struggles with print, switch to audio versions of books or magazines. 

Whatever activity you choose to do, these tips might help.

Tips for starting new activities

Put out the things you need before starting an activity, for example, tools for gardening or ingredients for cooking. The person with dementia might like to help you with this. 

Reduce distractions such as background noise.  

Give yourself time and take things at a slower pace if you need to. And be reassuring if the person finds things difficult