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A person living with Alzheimer's is no more or less likely to contract the flu each year simply because they have the disease. Similarly, they are not more likely to contract COVID-19 because they have Alzheimer’s.
However, some behaviors of Alzheimer’s patients can, and likely will, increase the risk of infection if not monitored carefully.
"Some of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer's like forgetfulness and difficulty completing routine tasks can make a person more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus," said Susan Lotkowski, D.O., Neurologist with the Inspira Medical Group.
Here's what you can do to help mitigate these risks and keep your loved one on a safe and healthy track.
Routines and Reminders
One of the most powerful, and easy, ways to keep someone living with Alzheimer's safe is to stick to a routine. Following a daily routine can help patients do things like wash their hands frequently—a simple but important task that many forget.
“You can also make sure that there are consistent reminders of what to do, and what not to do, in easily visible areas,” said Lotkowski. “This could mean hanging up pictures of someone coughing in their elbow, or a written reminder on the refrigerator door that reminds someone to wash their hands before eating.”
Mandatory quarantine orders have started to be eased across the country, but it’s most likely too early for elderly patients—particularly those with Alzheimer’s—to leave their homes on a frequent basis.
“Every time an elderly person leaves their home, they increase their chance of contracting the virus,” said Lotkowski. “This also applies if someone is having interactions with a variety of people even within their own homes. Every new person they see represents a new possibility of exposure.”
The diminished cognitive functioning that comes with Alzheimer’s comes with an increase in forgetfulness, not only with routine activities but also with events that would normally merit remembering.
Someone with Alzheimer’s may feel poorly and vomit, but then forget that they vomited as they leave the bathroom. To combat this, patients should be encouraged to carry a pen and paper with them, so that they can keep a log of activities to give to their caregiver.
In many situations, the primary caregiver for someone living with Alzheimer’s may be a health care professional who comes to their home. To ensure the best care for your loved one, preventive measures should be taken. Ensure that the health care provider has been adhering to recommended social distancing rules, doesn’t feel ill and is washing their hands frequently.
To learn more about the expert care Inspira’s Neurologists provide for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, visit www.InspiraHealthNetwork.org/neurosciences.