Your wellbeing and support during coronavirus

The pandemic and its restrictions have placed huge strains on everyone’s health and wellbeing, particularly for people affected by dementia. Our advice here sets out support available from Alzheimer’s Society and how you can help look after your own physical and mental health.

1. Support services from Alzheimer's Society

Alzheimer’s Society is here for you, whatever your question. We can answer queries about all aspects of dementia, and offer advice and support for all associated challenges, including coronavirus.

Coronavirus support from Dementia Connect

We cannot offer personalised medical advice. But we will direct you towards other reliable sources.

Changes to our services

During the pandemic, we were not able to run most of our face-to-face and group services. As national restrictions are eased over the coming weeks and months, we are looking at how we begin to reopen these services. This will only be when and where it is safe to do so – in line with national guidance and any local restrictions. Check our dementia directory for details of what we are able to run in your area.

In addition to the support mentioned above, the following services that were set up during the pandemic continue to run:

  • Welfare calls - these are phone calls from a trained staff member or volunteer. They will check on the person affected by dementia – their safety and wellbeing, and also offer advice or signposting to other support. Welfare calls are for everyone we currently support with one of our face-to-face services
  • Online/telephone group services - some of our group services are now being run over the internet, such as our popular service Singing for the Brain, or on the phone (Ring and Sing). To find out which services are looking for new members, please search our dementia directory.

2. Looking after your general health

Keeping safe from coronavirus remains a focus for everyone, however you are affected by dementia, we have advice on what to look out for and what to do if you have dementia and you fall ill at home.

But other physical and mental health conditions (for example, heart diseases, diabetes or depression) have not gone away and these affect many people.

Looking after yourself is a good start. Follow our tips for staying physically well: 

  • Eat and drink healthily. Staying active may fight off the boredom that can cause us all to eat and drink things that are not so good for us. 
  • Exercise regularly. 
  • Try to get good a good night’s sleep. It will help with mental and physical health. 
  • Follow your healthcare professional’s usual advice on controlling any long-term conditions. 

Finally, ask for help. If you are ever concerned about a health condition, speak to your doctor or usual healthcare professional. This could be to do with coronavirus, dementia or something else. But do ask. 

In the early days of this pandemic, the NHS postponed many routine check-ups and some non-urgent treatments.

As things start to get back to normal now, you might find the way healthcare is delivered is still different for a while. For example, you may be asked to speak to the GP on the phone rather than go to the surgery. But do ask and follow up any concerns you have – it is important that you get things checked.

3. Taking care of your mental health

Almost everyone has faced increased anxiety or stress during the coronavirus pandemic. Many have felt low or lonely – but help is available.

Dementia itself often brings daily challenges and many people affected by it struggle with their mental health at times.

We have lots of advice and tips below to keep you both mentally well. These might help you feel more confident to begin to connect with your local community again.

If you’re still struggling with stress or anxiety, or feeling very low, then contact your GP for help. Or if you’re feeling lonely and would welcome a chat, call our support line to arrange for someone to call you back.

Keeping positive

It’s difficult but try to keep positive – despite the impact of the pandemic. It can help to remember that the vaccine programme and lower infection rates are helping us get back to normal.

Try to recall challenges you have already overcome and focus on the strength that you found then. Think about the positive aspects of your life and things you value. Be kind to yourself.

Stress and anxiety

Worrying about the coronavirus pandemic

The pandemic and our response to it continue to be in the news for a while because of the scale of coronavirus. Many things we took for granted have been affected. All this may make you worry – that’s normal. 

If you are feeling anxious or afraid, try not to watch or search out news frequently but rather watch once a day. This way, you will still have the latest advice and information, without getting distracted by regular updates and breaking news. Limiting how often you check the news will allow you both to focus on other things and take your mind off the pandemic. It will give you a chance to relax.

It’s important to get the right balance of information, so don’t switch off completely from the news. You still need to know what the latest advice is. There are also some positive stories about people coming together and getting through this.

If you use the internet for news, be very careful about false guidance or claims online. Use the NHS or gov.uk/coronavirus websites for the most up-to-date information. Look for practical steps you can take to protect yourself. Try not to dwell on information that doesn’t help you to stay safe or look after your wellbeing.

Tips to help you relax

Keeping active and talking with other people about your feelings will help with stress and anxiety. There are also some exercises that you can try to help you relax and be less anxious. They include:

  • breathing exercises – the NHS website has simple steps
  • relaxation – use music, silence, nature or prayer, whatever works for you
  • mindfulness – this means focusing in the moment on your thoughts and feelings. Visit the NHS website for general advice on mindfulness.

The NHS ‘Every Mind Matters’ website has more information and tips for coping with stress and anxiety while at home. Our general advice on anxiety may also be helpful.

Loneliness

Ways to stay connected

We all need to connect with other people to make us feel safe and secure. Not having close social contact has made the lockdowns especially difficult.

Wherever you live in the UK, there are plans to continue to ease restrictions over the coming months. This involves being able to meet up – firstly in small numbers and outside. Check for up-to-date guidance where you live at gov.uk/coronavirus

Even when if you can’t see friends and family in person, staying in touch with them is important for your mental health and will help you to stay positive.

Connect with the people who matter to you by phone, post, text, email or have a video call. Use whatever works for you. Apps and social media platforms with video calling such as Skype, WhatsApp and Zoom might be worth a try. Seeing someone’s face as well as hearing their voice can make you feel closer.

You could arrange a regular time of day to catch up, to give you a routine and something to look forward to.

Online communities or forums can be a useful source of support, and there will be lots of other people who are going through similar things.

Alzheimer’s Society’s online community Talking Point is a good place to start. There are different areas for meeting people in similar situations to you including a new area for conversations, queries and discussions about coronavirus.

You can also subscribe to our magazine, Dementia together. Here you can read more about how people affected by dementia are coping as well as many inspiring individual stories.

Coping with a bereavement and grief during the pandemic

Sadly, many people have lost family or friends during the pandemic, due to coronavirus or other causes. The restrictions on social contact meant that many people weren’t able to have visitors when they were ill or at the end of their life, including many people affected by dementia. 

Restrictions also meant that people were often isolated and coping alone with their feelings and practicalities, such as care and support arrangements. In some cases, these changes were very sudden.

Funerals were also affected, meaning that family often had to make difficult choices. This included having to balance the wishes of their loved ones with restrictions and limited numbers of people allowed to attend. 

If you’re supporting a person with dementia who is bereaved, see our information that includes suggestions on talking about what has happened. We also have general information for carers on grief, loss and bereavement including a list of helpful resources.

Everyone experiences grief differently and sometimes people feel guilt, relief or anger. None of these feelings are wrong. Talking with a trusted friend or family member can be helpful. Some people find exercise or mindfulness can help with feelings of anxiety or sleep issues. 

Cruse Bereavement Care has some practical coping suggestions and you can read more on their website. Other organisations who can provide advice or support are the Good Grief Trust and Sudden who have a bereavement helpline. You don’t need to cope on your own.

4. Support for a person with dementia living alone

Coronavirus has made life particularly difficult for people with dementia who live alone. This is even more challenging if you have no friends and family nearby, or don’t use the internet.

Local authorities are prioritising people at risk of going into hospital to keep them supported in their own home. If you are struggling in any way – for example, with food and drinks, taking medication or if you are prone to falls or infections – you should contact your local authority adult social services team as soon as possible. If the council is able to provide extra help during this time, this can help keep you safe and well. 

If you're not sure what your local authority is or how to contact them, visit the government website and enter your postcode. 

What is a support bubble?

To help support those who are most isolated, a person living alone and people from one other household is allowed to form a support bubble together (called an extended household in Wales). This means any number of people from the other household can visit the person, inside either of their homes. This includes overnight stays and none of this group needs to stay 2 metres apart. This arrangement must strictly be between the person and one other household.

Support from Alzheimer's Society for people with dementia who live alone

If you live alone and have been supported face-to-face by Alzheimer’s Society in the past, we should be in touch with a ‘welfare’ phone call. A trained member of staff or volunteer – possibly someone already known to you – will call to check on your wellbeing, and offer expert dementia information and advice.

Our booklet on Living alone also gives some general tips. If your normal care or support is not available, for example if your usual carer is not able to work, see our tips for assistive technology that may be able to help at this time.

Find local services near you for people affected by dementia

There are dementia services and support groups in your area. Find out what's available where you are.

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