2020 was one of the most challenging years many of us can remember. The anxiety, fear, and isolation brought on by the pandemic created enormous stress — and that’s on top of whatever else we already carry. For those who are caregivers for a loved one during this time, this past year likely felt incredibly overwhelming.
The holidays will feel different this year as everyone adjusts their expectations to the reality of 2020. But those who are living with someone with dementia have an extra issue to consider. With all the stress of the year behind us, is it less complicated to not celebrate at all?
For National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I’d like to reframe our view of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s one of the most feared diseases and the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. There’s a huge focus on the tragedy of the disease: what’s lost during the disease progression, what can no longer be done, and what can no longer be remembered. It’s true, it is a life-altering diagnosis. There’s a lot of grief, loss, and changing of roles throughout the progress of the disease. Alzheimer’s is not easy to navigate.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. To spread the word, we want to help clarify the difference between the terms “Alzheimer’s disease” and “dementia.” I hear a lot of confusion between these words, but there’s a simple distinction.
As a social worker who’s worked with people with dementia for well over a decade, one of the main concerns I repeatedly hear from family members and caregivers is about oven and stove safety. I recently spoke with the grandchild of a woman with dementia who used the stovetop to iron her sheets. She started a fire. Luckily, everyone was safe, but this prompted the granddaughter to get more help in the home to ensure it didn’t happen again.
This can be a scary situation, and it’s important to support the independence of someone with dementia while also balancing their safety (and the safety of others in the building). What if cooking brings joy to someone with dementia? Can we provide a safer kitchen set-up that still supports their love of cooking?
by Jodie Berman, MS, CTRS and Grace Townley-Lott, LMSW
Studies show that social engagement combats cognitive decline, while prolonged isolation and loneliness accelerate it. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has interrupted our usual social engagement routines. Those with dementia have been hit especially hard by this isolation.
Luckily, we live in a time where we can turn to virtual social engagement. Virtual programs can provide routine and support to those with dementia while giving their caregivers some respite. However, this pivot to virtual has its own challenges for participants and instructors alike.