It has been a difficult year for everyone in our community, filled with local and global challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In some ways these issues have brought us closer despite affecting our daily life.
Changes to our normal routines and protective measures, such as hand washing, hand sanitiser, physical distancing and isolation, have become our new way of life. It has been testing for everyone, including people living with dementia and their carers.
Dementia Australia has acknowledged that while everyone’s experience is different, some people living with dementia may have struggled to find cognitive stimulation or participate in their usual physical activities during this time. As a result, they may have developed feelings of loneliness and anxiety, which can lead to a fear of not being needed or valued.
In addition, increased periods of time spent at home may be challenging for carers, family members and friends caring for someone with dementia.
Ozcare’s Dementia Advisory and Support Service (DASS) have discovered the silver lining in the cloud of COVID-19:
- Families working from home are having more time to spend with each other.
- There’s been more time for DIY projects – like one of our clients knitting a teddy bear!
- There has been less rushing, creating more time for reflection and to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
- Virtual technology has allowed clients to catch up with family and friends they haven’t seen in a long time
- Places like museums and zoos have made virtual tours available online for everyone’s enjoyment:
- Museums and Art Galleries https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours
- Museum, Zoos and Aquariums https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/travel/a31784720/best-virtual-tours/
Whilst no one wants a diagnosis of dementia, we have found that people are delighted after a visit from our DASS team. Our advisors have been able to provide valuable information about dementia and services all whilst providing relief to a sometimes-stressful day.
Further supports which have been added to help at this time include:
- Newsletters developed to keep our clients updated on home activities and suggestions of using this time to create a memory book
- Monthly welfare calls so that people know they are not alone
- Telephone counselling for carers who might be struggling
- Being accessible when someone needs a hand
- Most recently we had a situation where we were able to help someone resolve an issue they were having with their mobile phone. This simple act of kindness can help someone’s day as without the mobile the individual would not have been able to have active communication to her family and health services
- Providing more in-home training with carers to further understand what is happening to both themselves and their loved one
- Ozcare Mackay is helping a family transition their mother from an aged care facility back to live in the community
Other clients and carers have found their own solutions to get them through:
- One carer made cloth masks for herself, all her family, neighbours, and friends and rediscovered her love for sewing and craft in the process
- One client took up diamond painting as an alternative to her usual art group, resulting in learning a new skill
- One couple has spent their time making refreshing changes to their garden
- Two carers learned how to do their shopping online and were very pleased with the results
Our Ozcare services have supported in-home respite and setting up programs which are COVID-friendly as we recognise this time can be specifically difficult for those people living with dementia.
Our staff have been motivated to foster teamwork and to align our work to be supportive of one another. As diverse individuals we bring a myriad of strengths, talent and different communication skills, however we all work towards a common goal of providing exceptional care for not only our clients but our staff and the community.
What an amazing support worker…
Laurie, one of our support workers visits Betty each Friday. Betty is 92 years old and her son who lives in South Australia and used to visit every year to stay with her for three months at a time. Recently he has had a stroke and is in residential care in South Australia.
Betty is a worrier and is unable to speak to her son on the phone due to his disability. Every second Friday Laurie has been taking her iPad to Betty’s and has face timed the facility so that Betty is able to communicate with her son and be reassured that he is being well cared for.
Just one example of how a little support makes a lot of difference.
Written by Karen Constant, Ozcare State Coordinator – Dementia Services