TUESDAY, April 7, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The coronavirus pandemic is throwing Americans' daily lives into disarray, and such disruptions are especially hard on people with Alzheimer's disease.
Changes in daily routines can trigger anxiety, confusion, agitation and/or discomfort for people with Alzheimer's, but there are a number of things family caregivers can do to adapt, according to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA).
"There is often comfort in the familiar," said Charles Fuschillo Jr., foundation president and CEO. "As we all adjust to the 'new normal' created by the coronavirus outbreak, caregivers should know about steps they can take to adapt routines and help their loved ones stay calm and comfortable."
Try to maintain normal daily schedules for getting up, eating meals and going to bed as much as possible, he suggested. If your loved one with Alzheimer's regularly eats at a favorite restaurant, order in from that restaurant or cook a dish they like to order.
Keep your loved one active. Many adult day and respite care programs are closed, so try to do similar activities -- such as listening to music, dancing or exercising -- at home. If your loved one normally goes to a program at a certain time of day, try to do home activities at that time. AFA offers these types of activities online.
Use online video, phone calls or text messages to keep your loved one connected with family and friends who would normally visit in person. If people out of town usually connect with your loved one via phone or online video, try to maintain that contact at the usual time.
Surround your loved one with familiar and positive items, food, music and clothing. This can be comforting and help reduce anxiety and stress.
Your own body language and attitude can affect your loved one's behavior. Remaining calm and attentive and showing the person love and care can help them adapt to changes caused by the pandemic.
Create a daily schedule of what your loved one will be doing every 30 or 60 minutes. Use lots of visual cues such as photos, stickers and drawings. Review the schedule with your loved one and refer to it regularly.
The AFA has a helpline (866-232-8484) staffed seven days by licensed social workers trained in dementia care. The helpline is also available on the AFA's website.
The Alzheimer's Association has more advice for dementia caregivers during the coronavirus pandemic.