Isolating does not have to mean isolated

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Dementia Australia has called on the community, including health and aged care staff, to work together to maintain engagement with people impacted by dementia during this unprecedented time of enforced isolation.

Maree McCabe, CEO Dementia Australia said people living with dementia are some of the most vulnerable people in our community right now.

“We are all physically isolating, but it does not mean we have to feel socially isolated,” Ms McCabe said.

“Ramping up the focus on engagement and communication at this time of restricted physical contact is vital for all of us, but especially for people living with dementia.

“If stimulus is reduced for people living with dementia the loss of cognitive function can escalate. 

“Over time these are losses that most people will not be able to regain.

“Being aware that your cognitive abilities may ‘slip away’, as one client described it, is a profound concern.

“With innovative strategies and working together it doesn’t have to be that way.

“For people living in residential aged care we encourage staff to involve families wherever they can to actively plan for different forms of engagement and methods of communication.” 

Some of the fantastic examples we have heard about through aged care providers and our clients are:

• Maintaining regular visits from a family member at key times of importance for a person with dementia so that routines are maintained as much as possible or to assist with the care of their loved one;
• Staff scheduling window visits with phone calls, walks in gardens and courtyards within the homes so loved ones have been able to visit safely with no contact with other residents; 
• Sharing of photos of residents enjoying activities with families; 
• Arranging video calls, or if that isn’t practical, sharing video messages between residents and families;
• Printing out emails or photos to give to residents to enjoy;
• Providers inviting schools and community groups to send jokes, stories and messages to share;
• Where residents have needed to be confined to rooms, providing writing materials for residents to write notes to each other;
• Staff creating WhatsApp chats for residents to help maintain social interaction when perhaps they are not able to see each other as much;
• Providers creating closed Facebook Groups for families to communicate with each other and the staff;
• Day respite staff dropping activity packs off to homes instead of clients going to them.

“There are still many ways that families continue to be included, even if they are not visiting in person as often,” Ms McCabe said.

“For people living with dementia not every idea will work every time – but this ongoing connection is important for everyone.”

To encourage everyone to remain socially connected during this time, Dementia Australia is launching a new social media campaign, #IsolatingNotIsolated.

The campaign is sharing information, tips and personal stories on how we can all remain socially connected during isolation. 

“With 70 per cent of the 459,000 Australians with dementia living in the community it is time to consider how you might check on someone who may be more physically isolated or vulnerable so that they do not feel socially disconnected or alone,” said Ms McCabe. 

“Calling a person who lives alone or knocking on a neighbour’s door and from a safe distance, checking if they need any help with getting to medical appointments, or if there is anyone you can contact on their behalf are actions that can make a significant difference. 

“Dementia is a progressive disease, which means that people with dementia may be as yet undiagnosed and may need your help at this difficult time.

“I also encourage you to share what you are doing to remain socially connected with others using #IsolatingNotIsolated. It is a great way to inspire others to take action and we would love to hear your ideas.”

For more information and suggestions on how to better support all people impacted by dementia in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) visit https://www.dementia.org.au/an-update-from-dementia-australia or call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. 

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Dementia Australia is the national peak body and charity for people, of all ages, living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers. It provides advocacy, support services, education and information. An estimated 459,000 people have dementia in Australia. This number is projected to reach almost 1.1 million by 2058. Dementia Australia’s services are supported by the Australian Government.

National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500  Interpreter service available  (The National Dementia Helpline is an Australian Government Initiative)  Dementia is a National Health Priority Area         www.dementia.org.au

Media contacts: Christine Bolt, National GM Communications, Corporate Communications, 0400 004 553, [email protected] | Gabrielle Prabhu, Media & Communications Manager, 0447 253 583, [email protected]

Spokespeople are available for media comment via Skype or phone. 

When talking or writing about dementia please refer to Dementia-Friendly Language Guidelines.