How fighting the spread of coronavirus affects Alzheimer’s and dementia patients

Updated: Mar. 10, 2020 at 4:58 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Doctors say our older population and those with underlying health conditions are most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus COVID-19. For those with Alzheimer’s and dementia the recommended tasks to avoid the virus aren't so easy.

For months, doctors have told us our best line of defense against the contagious coronavirus strain COVID-19 is washing our hands. Those caring for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia know it's a simple task we may take for granted.

“At the Alzheimer's Foundation we really are there for a resource and to help these caregivers and guide them,” Dr. Allison Reiss said.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America said some people living with Alzheimer’s have a sensitivity to water. The foundation is releasing tips on how to get patients to wash their hands and avoid the virus.

It says to use a soothing voice and even put on soothing music and sing with the patient for the recommended 20 seconds. Explain the process of handwashing step by step, and don’t assume the patient knows what happens next.

Make it comfortable - turn on warm water and use a soap with a smell they like.

“If they can't do a full wash, hand sanitizer is a very reasonable back-up,” Dr. Reiss said.

Dr. Allison Reiss is part of the foundation’s Medical, Scientific and Memory Screening Board. She said doctors have been recommending people stop touching their faces to keep the virus at bay.

Dr. Reiss recommends similar tactics to hand washing to get patients to remember to not touch their faces like soothing voices and music and step-by-step reminders.

“It’s hard enough for any of us to do that, but they don’t have the awareness or ability to be able to control those impulses,” Dr. Reiss said.

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