by Bridget Shumka RN, BScN – Coordinator of Community Bathing & Adult Day Programs, Mount Newton Centre –
Caregiving for an elderly, ill or disabled family member is a demanding job and no one is equipped to do it alone. Finding respite care services can provide a vital break. For seniors with deteriorating health, respite time for their carer can be the key to enabling them to remain at home for longer. Unfortunately providing respite time for caregivers of people with dementia has been especially challenging with COVID-19. Adult Day Programs have been closed due to the risk of virus transmission to vulnerable seniors, and many caregivers with little family support have needed to cope on their own.
Since March 2020, nurses at Mount Newton Centre have kept in touch with their 50 clients/caregivers who were previously attending the program and reported the following concerns from their weekly calls:
• Even after a few weeks, caregivers reported fatigue and symptoms
• Many caregivers noticed that their loved one with dementia was sleeping
more and/or struggling with increased confusion and agitation.
How could caregivers receive assistance during these times?
Firstly, this is the time that family, friends and neighbours reaching out via telephone can brighten up the senior’s day. For caregivers who do not have access to family support the offer for meal delivery can take away another daily stressor. On the Saanich Peninsula, Mount Newton Centre and Shoal Centre have found their meal delivery programs very appreciated and supportive to seniors.
Going out to the grocery store with a family member is particularly challenging as extra safety precautions can be agitating to persons with dementia. Grocery ordering and delivery via telephone can also reduce the burden for caregivers and reduce their exposure to COVID-19. Thrifty Foods’ Sendial program has provided this service for many years utilizing community volunteers. This is also an opportunity for a younger friend or neighbour to help set up a delivery using online order services.
Where we have seen the benefits of online services in many areas of our lives this past year, it is not necessarily appropriate for everyone. At the Mount Newton Centre we trialed a Virtual Adult Day Program following Alberta’s “Go The Distance” program. During this 6-month trial with a Recreation Therapist it was determined that, unfortunately, most of our clients did not feel enthusiastic about connecting with staff and others virtually and many did not continue with the program.
Research shows music and singing can improve concentration, mood, memory recall and the overall general feeling of well-being for people with dementia. Prior to COVID-19 our clients loved to sing along to our “live” entertainment with Garnet and Andy each Friday. We’ve been excited to try an alternative way to bring music into the lives of our clients and their carers; Radio Sidney will air a “Mount Newton Centre Sings” program every Friday from 11.30-12.30. We encourage caregivers of clients with dementia in our community to contact the Mount Newton Centre if they are interested in a singing/music program for a senior family member.
2021 brings the hope of life starting to return to normal with the availability of a new vaccine. Although there will continue to be restrictions for a period of time, we all know that by reaching out to the caregivers in our community we can help them cope and reduce their feelings of isolation.