Keith Oliver outside

Social isolation diary: Two months living with dementia in coronavirus lockdown

Coronavirus has brought new challenges for people living with dementia, such as Keith Oliver, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2010. Find out how Keith and his wife Rosemary have been staying active while self-isolating.

I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 55. I have been self-isolating with my wife Rosemary for over nine weeks now. The coronavirus lockdown has been a very callenging time for us, and it has really surprised me how difficult it’s been. 

We try and do a lot of activities together, like gardening, that keep my brain stimulated and physically fit without going for walks. But more than half my care plan is based around doing more activities to help me keep well, some of which have just disappeared.  

Keeping up hobbies and routines, and being physically active, is so key to preventing my symptoms from worsening.

I’ve been a public servant for most of my life and I need my daily routine to continue to give me a sense of self-worth.

What activities are important to me? 

Conversations with my wife, Rosemary are important. I make sure to take time every day to sit and talk to her, have a cup of coffee together, play a game or record something we like to watch and sit down to watch that and have a chat about it.

I like to keep myself moving as much as I can. I’m lucky enough to have a garden and as well as the digging, weeding and watering the plants helps to keep me moving.

I also do exercises indoors as I have some challenges with my balance. I do some simple standing on one leg balance exercises and some sit up type activities that really help me. 

I try to do something new every day. I like to keep lists as a way of dealing with the different activities I plan to do.

It helps me to mix up the activities so I don’t always do the easy ones first and the hard ones last.

I like to keep socially connected even if I’m physically distant. We set up a daily video call with our youngest son who was diagnosed with COVID19 (but is thankfully okay now) to check in. Now he’s okay we still keep that time in to have a chat and I speak to my older children each day too. 

I’ve been enjoying some of the Active Minds products like aqua paints and puzzles every now and again too.

Good and bad days

The way I am each day varies a lot now and I never know how the day will turn out. The activities I do can be helpful for me one day but be challenging for me on another day.

Before I used to feel quite different, but I take some strength and feel a better connection knowing everyone is having their own challenges now and it’s not just me. 

I have some fears about when and how this might all end. I wonder what the world will be like for me, my friends and my family and for the organisations I care about. 

Feeling the reward

I find it really helpful to create and keep a routine. Make sure there are things in every day with a little difficulty to look forward to and feel the reward.

You’ve got to take each day as it comes, and plan one thing a little bit ahead to look forward to. 


Click or tap on the arrows below to see how Keith and Rosemary have been coping during coronavirus lockdown:

Support at home during lockdown

Coronavirus and the lockdown can bring extra challenges for carers too. Our advice here may help. 

Advice for carers
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13 comments

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I was diagnosed with Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA) in May 2019. On diagnosis one of the 1st books I read was Keith's Dementia Diaries, it was and still is an inspiration, thank you Keith (and Rosemary too of course)

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Hello Keith and Rosemary - I was so pleased to see your update as it's some time since our paths have crossed as Research Network Volunteers. It's a strange time for us all. Like you, I've made a daily routine and make the most of working and sitting in my garden, and exercising daily in local parks. However I haven't ventured to use any modern technology such as Zoom. I hope it won't be too long before we will see each other in person again. Best wishes to you both, Gillian

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Many thanks Gillian. I hope that you are keeping well. See you when we return to something like normal.

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I think you are doing great Keith. I was diagnosed in January 2019. I'm not getting any better but am holding off the decline. I'm lucky in that I've always been self employed, first as a playwright and, since 2000 as a visual artist. I make woodcut prints but since I've been 'locked out' of my studio I've been painting at home with watercolours. I'm represented by a very good gallery who are understanding and like my watercolours. Personally I dislike the word 'hobby' and see what I do as a commitment, but that probably does come out of having always worked on my own. I also have a supportive partner who works on his own and a lovely daughter. My friends are mainly artists too so we all speak the same language.

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Thanks for sharing.
Living with dementia has it's own unique challenges, but "lockdown" has added a new dimension to them.

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My dear husband in care home have not seen hem for 11 weeks now missing hem very badly heart breaking I talk on phone but only get five minutes aday as cares have to help hem cannot do face time it upsets hem today he said to me I will not see you again well I I cryed my eyes out it is so very cruel

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Hello Christina,
We are so sorry to hear this. This period of separation from your husband must be very distressing. Please know that we are here for you, and we want to help.
By calling 0333 150 3456, you can talk with a dementia adviser who can listen to your situation and provide support. They can also offer you the option to receive regular calls to keep in touch. Our dementia advisers want to find out how you are and offer advice and support when things change. Find out more about our support line here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-connect-support-line
You may also find it helpful to speak with other primary carers and family members of people affected by dementia. Our online community, Talking Point, is available 24/7: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-talking-point-our-on…
We wish you all the best at this difficult time, Christina.
-
Alzheimer's Society website team

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Well done Keith and Rosemary during this challenging time for us all. Finding a daily routine is key. Like everyone some good and bad days but as long as you keep moving and busy we are lucky not having the challenges of having to go to work and put each other at risk. Onwards and upwards .Keep it up .Faye R.

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Thank you Faye. I hope to see you once we emerge from this difficult time x

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Really good to see how you and Rosemary are doing Keith. And so helpful as always to hear your candid and positive accounts even in these strange times! Will be sharing with others as I know it will help. Thank you both!

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Thank you Sarah. Psychologists I’ve got to know since diagnosis have been loyal and supportive professional friends throughout. 😍

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Keith is an inspiration to us all. HIs wife Rosemary is amazing. I have been lucky to have them as friends. They light up our world, and show us how to cope with illness and pain. Keep writing Keith your words are inspirational.

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Thank you Lorna, you are a much valued friend 😍

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