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Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s

Written by: Silusapho Nyanda

Those who have a family member with Alzheimer’s disease will have to keep explaining the dangers of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to them. 

Alzheimer’s is an illness of the brain that affects memory, the ability to understand and logic and reasoning, among other things.

Alzheimer’s South Africa’s Executive Director Petra Du Toit says people who have Alzheimer’s may not understand why they must stay at home or why visitors are not coming to see them. 

“People with Alzheimer’s often suffer short-term memory loss. Even though it might be tiring for you, you have to explain things to them over and over. For example, why you can’t see them if you contract COVID-19.”

To minimise the person’s confusion, Du Toit advises calling them to keep in touch.

If someone in a household tests positive for COVID-19, someone else should look after the Alzheimer’s patient. Family members need to be firm to ensure that the patient does not come into contact with an infected person.

If an Alzheimer’s patient requires COVID-19 isolation, Du Toit advises that they are placed in a calm and soothing room while they recover. “If a person with dementia requires isolation, create a special space for them. Adjust the lighting, play soothing music and ask the caregiver to communicate with them in simple language.”

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that affects 70 percent of all dementia sufferers. It is commonly found in people over the age of 60. Du Toit says: “Dementia is a collective name for conditions in which progressive degeneration of the brain affects memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion.”

Alzheimer’s symptoms include confusion, getting lost and sometimes not being able to perform tasks such as dressing oneself. 

Families looking after a person with Alzheimer’s should identify and utilise support systems, such as nearby public health facilities, private care facilities or their closest Alzheimer’s South Africa office.  

For more information, visit www.alzheimers.org.za, call 011 792 2511 or email info@alzheimers.org.za. Alternatively, visit your closest public health facility.