The impact of COVID-19 has been felt right across the globe.
People have had to get used to new routines with respect to social distancing, wearing face masks and constantly washing and sanitizing their hands.
But for people living with dementia, these new routines can be confusing, difficult to remember and ultimately cause them to become more isolated than they already are.
My Fears and Frustrations: Living with Dementia During a Pandemic, a free one-hour virtual peer-support group for persons living with dementia, is being hosted by the Adult Cognitive Wellness Centre.
Marissa Stalman, outreach and community development coordinator with the centre, will be facilitating the group.
She is hoping that participants will be able to engage with each other and just be able to express themselves in a safe, calm environment.
“We know that dementia doesn’t only affect memory, it affects, overall cognitive understanding and decision making,” said Stalman, making it difficult for people in the later stages and perhaps even the early stages of dementia to comprehend the severity of this epidemic as well as the preventative measures.
Many people living with dementia may be experiencing difficulty carrying out daily tasks and difficulty changing their routines, explained Stalman.
“There may be different staff in their favourite stores,” Stalman explained, staff whom people that are living with dementia are not used to getting help from.
Social distancing can also be confusing to people living with dementia.
Or they may have a hearing impairment which makes it difficult to hear people wearing masks.
“Which could be quite frustrating,” added Stalman.
The peer-support group will allow those living with dementia along with their caregivers to share any challenges they have experienced during the COVID-19 crisis.
Caregivers might also be feeling stressed out, and isolated, noted Stalman.
Currently the Adult Cognitive Wellness Centre is holding free virtual programming for those over 55 living with dementia.
Evidence-based, therapeutic programs are offered daily with recreation lead Amy Hache, providing social connection, physical conditioning, stress relief, cognitive stimulation and support.
There is even a dementia-friendly café every Thursday afternoon with dementia consultant and author of Cracking the Dementia Code, Karen Tyrell.
“Dementia can be a very isolating disease because of the stigma that society has around dementia,” said Stalman.
“Many persons living with dementia do not disclose their illness to everybody so that’s going to be further exasperated with the isolation of the pandemic,” she said.
And spending time alone, not engaging with cognitive stimulating activities can actually lead to further decline and exasperation of symptoms of dementia, added Stalman.
It has been estimated that between 62 to 87 per cent of seniors living in long-term care facilities have dementia or some form of cognitive impairment, said Stalman.
“Advocating for people with dementia is advocating for people in long-term care,” continued Stalman.
Ultimately Stalman wants to see more dialogue around the social and psychological implications of the pandemic.
“People are lonely,” she said.
Stalman is also facilitating a monthly Dementia Grief and Loss support group from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. the last Friday of every month.
My Fears and Frustrations: Living with Dementia During a Pandemic is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 4.
To register for either of the support groups or for more information on the centre’s virtual programming email email@example.com.