We received an excellent question from a Caregiver this week — and it’s likely many Caregivers are struggling with the same issue. So, we thought we’d share the question and the answer with all of you!

The Caregiver asked:

What do you do if a client with dementia doesn’t understand how to keep herself safe from the virus. I have a client who touches everything, then touches her face and puts her fingers in her mouth. Any suggestions?

Here’s what we told her:

The best way to respond to a dementia-related behavior like this one is to use redirection techniques. In this case, you could give her something (safe) to do with her hands.

  • Give her something to hold, such as a stress ball or a baby doll.
  • Give her activities to do, such as folding dish towels, or matching socks.
  • Have her sit at a table and look through a photo album or a book with pictures.
  • Try a simple craft, such as stringing pasta onto yarn. Since she likes to put things in her mouth, be careful with anything that could be a choking hazard.
  • If the family is able, you might suggest they order a fidget blanket. This is a small blanket that has pockets, zippers, and ties for when hands need to be distracted.
  • Search the internet for “fidget toys for older adults living with dementia” for loads of other options.

Hand washing is still the best defence!

Be sure to encourage (and assist) the person living with dementia to wash her hands throughout the day, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The Alzheimer’s Association says:

  • People living with dementia may need extra and/or written reminders and support to remember important hygienic practices from one day to the next.
  • Consider placing signs in the bathroom and elsewhere to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds.
  • Demonstrate thorough hand-washing.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be a quick alternative to hand-washing if the person with dementia cannot get to a sink or wash his/her hands easily.

And finally, be patient!

It’s clear you only want to protect your client, but it won’t help anyone if you get stressed out about it. Take comfort in the fact that you are keeping her hands as clean as you can throughout the day, so if she does touch her face or her mouth, chances are low that she will infect herself.

How else can you help?

You can help your clients’ family members give the best possible care to their loved ones by downloading and distributing our new guide, “Helpful Family Resources for Dealing with COVID-19.”

Print copies or email the link to your clients’ family members. This tool provides the tips and resources they need to guide them through the caregiving process during the coronavirus crisis.

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