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Alzheimer's Association offers tips for caregivers

The Alzheimer’s Association is offering tips for family caregivers to help them protect their loved ones from COVID-19.

“For starters, be sure not to spread unnecessary alarm about coronavirus to the person you care for. The best way to prevent illness is simply to avoid being exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The next best thing is to encourage everyday preventative measures to avoid the spread of respiratory disease,” said Dr. Allison Reiss, associate professor of medicine at the New York University Long Island School of Medicine.

Washing your hands thoroughly and often is an important step in preventing the spread of the flu, colds and COVID-19, which is causing alarm around the world.

But people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often have difficulty washing their hands and bathing.

The CDC recommends everyone wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing.

Caregivers can help those with Alzheimer’s wash long enough by singing “Happy Birthday” twice, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends.

Use a soothing tone to encourage washing and understand that you may need to explain what to do slowly step-by-step. Talk the person through the process by saying things like, “First, let’s wet our hands under the water. Now we’ll use the soap dispenser to squeeze out some soap into your hands,” the association advises.

Use your own hands to model what needs to be done.

Consider using soap with a fragrance like lavender to improve the sensory experience.

Soap dispensers may be easier and safer to use than bars of soap for a person with dementia, but use whichever your person prefers. Keep bars of soap free of water, so they can dry between washings. If the soap is wet, simply rinse it off before lathering, the association says.

Make sure the room temperature is comfortable for washing.

If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, according to the CDC.

Keep supplies such as tissues, wipes and hand sanitizer in easily accessible places near your loved one, the Alzheimer’s Association advises.

Use hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes for fast fixes around the home, and clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are touched frequently, the association says.

Caregivers should make sure their loved ones are drinking enough liquids, because they may already have a weakened immune system. Pay close attention to the person’s need to use the bathroom more and be prepared for the possibility of increased incontinence from being well hydrated, the association recommends.

If adult day care, respite programs or other activities are canceled due to the virus outbreak, try activities such as games, looking at picture albums, listening to music, watching movies and engaging in small tasks like folding washcloths to pass the time.

People should stay home from activities if they’re feeling sick to avoid spreading the virus or other illnesses.

Health officials remind the public that the flu is more prevalent than the COVID-19 coronavirus that spread out of China, so get a flu shot and follow the same good hygiene habits used to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.