NPR Report Highlights Challenges of Dementia Care During COVID

Staff Sgt. Mark Young (right), a financial management specialist assigned to the 121st Air Refueling Wing, talks to Kathy Russell, a resident of the Carlin House, May 27, 2020, in Logan, Ohio. Young was part of a 20-person team of Ohio National Guard members who were tasked with helping at the assisted living facility after over half of their staff and residents tested positive for COVID-19. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Amber Mullen)

A recent edition of NPR’s Here & Now focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on dementia care facilities, as the pandemic creates new and unique challenges for residents, families, and care staff.

The report centers on a memory care facility in Massachusetts, describing how one family has been impacted by the pandemic and regulations limiting in-person visitations. The report also weighs the toll taken on facility staff; the pandemic has upended the daily routines of many residents, and infection control measures and limited social interaction has led to increased confusion and anxiety for people with dementia.

“One of the greatest challenges has been separating people from their loved ones, from their family interactions,” said Dr. Olivia Liff, a geriatric specialist, in speaking to NPR about the challenges of increased isolation. “Often times people in memory support do better when they’re together with other persons diagnosed and the care providers that are in the unit – those people are almost like family members in these settings.”

Liff also notes the difficulty of handling behavioral disruptions such as anxiety or aggression during this time, and how infection control strategies, such as wearing masks and increased isolation, can be difficult for people with dementia to understand and maintain.

The Summer 2020 issue of AFTD’s Partners in FTD Care newsletter addresses some of the challenges being faced by persons diagnosed, families, and care staff, and offers strategies for maximizing care in the face of this new reality.

The full NPR report is available here.

Photo courtesy the Army National Guard

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