Advise Me

Caring for Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

Living with Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia is difficult enough. Add the stress of a global pandemic to the mix and you’re bound to have a few more questions. We spoke with Lori Nisson, the Family & Community Services director at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute to gain some insight for maintaining routine, connection and safety in unsettling times.

How should one explain COVID-19 to a loved one with dementia?

Take the time to comfort your loved ones. At every level of comprehension, the end goal should be a feeling of positivity and optimism. Nisson advised that less is more in any explanation. For someone in early stages of dementia, comprehension may come easier. Keep the explanation direct, sharing reassurance as often as cautions. In cases of advanced dementia, a simple statement might be enough. Nisson offers, “There is a virus in the community. We need to keep our hands clean, wear a mask and spend our time indoors.” Be sure to remind the person that you will take care of them and make sure they are safe.

How does at-home care change during COVID-19?

Routines are as important as ever during the spread of the coronavirus. Make a habit of wiping down high-traffic surfaces, handwashing and other good hygiene habits. Here are a few more ideas you can incorporate into your daily routine:

  • Simple coloring or crafts
  • Organizing and sorting items around the house
  • Spend time outdoors in accordance with local restrictions
  • Connect with family and friends for coffee through Zoom or Facetime
  • Incorporate exercise (walking or chair stretching)

How should I care for someone in assisted living?

First things first, speak with a caretaker to see how they have adjusted their routines to keep residents safe. Understanding your loved one’s new structures will help you maintain a reliable schedule and safe practices. This is also an opportunity to ask the facility if you can help by dropping off any supplies.

If possible, Nisson recommends scheduling FaceTime or Zoom conferences to stay in touch. Some facilities may offer “window visits” as well. Another fun way to communicate is via mail. Your kids will love drawing pictures and writing notes for their family member in assisted living.

How can I be ready in case my loved one or I get sick?

If you get sick, you will need to isolate yourself from others. Be sure that another family member or close friend is ready as a back-up caretaker.

If your loved one is living at home, and they become sick, you may need the support of a nearby assisted living, memory care, volunteer or non-medical caregiver company. Nisson suggests inquiring now to see if these groups are accepting new patients during the pandemic. Having a back-up plan is the best way to act fast should the need arise.

It’s perfectly normal to have questions right now. These are unfamiliar circumstances for all of us and may become tumultuous times for your loved one with dementia. If you have questions regarding care or how to speak with them regarding COVID-19, reach out to a Banner Health dementia specialist, primary care physician, nurse or social worker. For the latest on COVID-19 visit or for the most up-to-date CDC guidelines visit their website.

Alzheimers Disease and Dementia COVID-19 Caregiving