JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Patients with Alzheimer’s have special needs as we continue to battle the Coronavirus Outbreak.
The Alzheimer's Association Mississippi Chapter is working to help caregivers facing unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group is offering tips to help caregivers spot signs of a problem.
Kristen Davis and Adina Welker both work with the Alzheimer's Association Mississippi Chapter. They help outline some of the challenges caregivers are facing as they try to navigate through the Coronavirus Outbreak to keep themselves and Alzheimer's patients safe.
Kristen Davis, Program Director for the Alzheimer’s Association, Mississippi Chapter said, "people with Alzheimer's and other types of dementia, they don't necessarily have a greater risk of getting the coronavirus but they have, they can't remember to, you know, wash their hands regularly, which does put them at a higher risk so we are really trying to encourage our caregivers to help to remind them. Post notes to help remind them to wash their hands."
Isolation is already a part of the daily lives of caregivers and those with Alzheimer's.
Adina Welker, Longest Day Coordinator said, "every day living with Alzheimer's Disease is hard. And people struggle often times with being lonely and being cooped up. There comes a place where people with Alzheimer's Disease don't get out very often and especially when their caregivers have to stay with them and loneliness and isolation really does become a problem."
The majority of those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are over 65 which puts them at the highest risk for complications from COVID-19 especially if they have other chronic conditions involving the heart, lungs or diabetes.
Here are some of the statistics for Mississippi. 57 thousand people 65 and older have Alzheimer's. 207 thousand caregivers provide 235 million hours of unpaid care, the price tag, over three million dollars. Mississippi has the third highest Alzheimer's death rate in America.
Welker said, "dementia doesn't increase the risk of getting COVID-19 but dementia does increase those risk factors, those behaviors. They do forget to wash their hands. They forget to not touch their face, so trying to protect them by isolation also makes things harder for them and for their caregivers."
Davis added, “caregivers are another group of individuals that you know we are focused on, because they're the ones having to take care of them and if they get sick you know we have to make sure that the caregivers have an alternate plan in place to help those, their loved ones with dementia."
The national figures are also staggering. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. 16 million Americans provide unpaid care, and 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Alzheimer’s kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
Davis said, "Mississippi has a high rate of diabetes and high blood pressure. We, you know, automatically have a higher rate of Alzheimer'. We always say what's healthy for your heart is healthy for your brain."
Here are some more tips: Be cautious with outside caregivers and guests, monitor sudden or sustained changes in behavior and respond quickly to any signs of distress, discomfort or increased confusion.
"Increased confusion is often the first symptom of illness, so when you notice that your loved one's behavior is being more and more of a problem acutely and suddenly, when you notice that their confusion is suddenly much worse, it is important to take their temperature. If they're running a fever you need to call their doctor. Don't just show up at the clinic but you need to call their doctor and follow CDC guidelines for that”, Welker said.
The Alzheimer's Association says anyone concerned can use the Helpline that is available 24/7 and staffed around the clock by master level clinicians.
The number for the Helpline is 800-272-3900.