PPE Considerations when supporting people with dementia and other cognitive impairments (Sep 2020)
During the COVID-19 pandemic staff need to adhere to the government guidance for the use of PPE with people they are supporting. For people with dementia and other cognitive impairments this could be disorientating and a potentially frightening experience. Particularly if this is the first thing you experience when you wake up in the morning or during the night.
Some residents and customers may already have a care plan in place for how to support them appropriately during personal care as they find the situation difficult and it causes them distress. The use of PPE for these individuals is likely to exacerbate those feelings. This is going to make caring for them more complex and therefore this guide on what you can do to aid this difficult situation.
- Use skills to help put people at ease, ensure you talk to people before with a calm, clear voice. If you now that someone might find the interaction difficult, try to ease your own anxiety by taking a big deep breath before going to see someone so they do not pick up on your feelings of anxiety
- Knock on the resident’s door and enter slowly, greeting the resident using their name and introducing yourself with a smile and a wave, stating your name and your role.
- Acknowledge the mask or equipment you are wearing saying “sorry I look a bit funny today, I’m wearing this to protect us both from any bugs or germs we might have”
- If someone can communicate via reading, consider a sign that is wipeable that says “I’m here to help.” Also consider using picture cards to help communicate what you need to tell someone.
- Are there other ways you know of to put the customer at ease? Gently touch the person on the shoulder, hold their hand, put their favourite music on, hum a tune?
- Consider the general environment, making it warming and familiar, stick to usual routines like bringing someone a cup of tea, or spraying their favourite scent.
- One of the main difficulties for residents is that they may not recognise familiar staff when they are wearing PPE. Therefore, one helpful thing that providers can do is print photos of their staff members (with a smile!) and attach this to their apron. Also remember to wear a name badge that is infection control compliant too.
- Is there a way that the apron can look more friendly? Stickers of flowers of smiley faces?
- Try and tune in to how someone might be feeling. This feeling can then be validated, and the person reassured. For example, if they appear frightened or upset, “you seem anxious, I can understand why that might be the case, but I am here to help, and we will go at your pace.”
- Source some clear masks that are Public Health compliant. Clear masks can help customers to see people’s faces and read their lips, this helps them look less scary and aids better communication. If you cannot source PH complaint clear masks for use within 2m consider using a clear mask to say hello after knocking on the door and explaining you will need to change your clear mask for a covered one. The Suffolk County Council PPE cell is working on finding a PH clear mask supplier of mask that can be used during supporting someone with personal care.
- Ensure all staff, particularly agency staff are up to date with people’s care plans and preferences, make sure that any specific/individualised ways of communicating or supporting someone during this time is well documented. Ensure new or agency staff have a buddy to work with where possible, someone who know the residents well.
If these tips are not effective with someone and the risk to their physical well-being is high and enduring then please contact either the person’s allocated worker if they have one or the Central Safeguarding Team [email protected] or the DoLS Team [email protected] for further advice about completing a risk assessment. Any risk assessment will need to include the person, their representative, and all relevant professionals.
Further Sources of Information