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09th July 2020

Recovery and Rehabilitation for People Living with Dementia after Coronavirus

As this pandemic continues with no end in sight, you are no doubt having to adapt to yet more new challenges as you support residents with their recovery after this debilitating illness.

The recovery process for residents who have had Coronavirus can be long and arduous, taking weeks or even months.  Coronavirus can leave people exhausted with muscle weakness, breathing difficulties, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. People with dementia are also likely to have a decline in cognitive skills and may have lost the ability to perform the day-to-day tasks they could before. They will need extra support and rehabilitation to help them recover. Your expert care and support will be key to helping them regain lost skills and regain a sense of normality and wellbeing.

If your residents are returning to you from the hospital, then it is likely that health care professionals will be involved with their follow-up. Your expert skills and knowledge will be invaluable to them. You are the ones who know the resident best and may be able to facilitate participation in treatment or exercises. You will recognise signs of distress and fatigue and know the best time of day to get the best results. Teamwork is essential to get the best chance of success.

Getting back into a routine is an important part of the recovery process for someone with dementia to lessen confusion and disorientation and help them regain feelings of familiarity and belonging.  It is likely that your tried and trusted person-centred schedule of activities will have gone out of the window. New personalised care plans need to incorporate extra time for visits from health care professionals and associated rehabilitation. Activities need extra time and may need to be broken down into manageable chunks, balanced with regular rest and relaxation to maximise recovery. OT and Physio can help with this.

Good nutrition and staying well hydrated are key to recovery from coronavirus.  You may find that residents recovering from Coronavirus have little interest in food. This could be due to exhaustion, low mood or a result of increased confusion and disorientation. There may be swallowing difficulties or weak muscles due to being on a ventilator. Working with SALT and the Dietitian can help you come up with an effective care plan and give your residents the best chance to boost their immune system, gain weight and beat this virus.

Coronavirus really takes its toll on the physical health of vulnerable people in our care. But the effect on mental health should not be overlooked. The effects on breathing, extreme fatigue, increased confusion and loss of skills can be very distressing, leading to increased anxiety symptoms and even post-traumatic stress disorder. If you can engage someone with relaxation techniques, you can significantly reduce distress, whether it is listening to gentle music which may help slow deep breathing or sitting outside in the fresh air to unwind and practice mindfulness. Your continued support and reassurance cannot be underestimated here.

It’s a lot of work, but with patience, perseverance and teamwork we can support those in our care to have a speedier recovery, become more independent and start to enjoy life again. Better times are ahead. You are all amazing.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Katie Farrar

Occupational Therapist

Katie qualified as an Occupational Therapist in the year 2000. For most of her professional career she has worked in the field of older people’s mental health services within community mental health teams. As part of this she has had extensive involvement with people with dementia and their carers, both in the community and in care home settings. Katie is currently working with the Dementia Pathway Team supporting people with dementia in the care home setting and particularly with advanced care planning for end of life care. She has also recently completed the Mental Health Act Best Interest Assessor Course at Leeds Beckett University. Katie has developed and delivered training to care homes on dementia awareness, managing delirium and managing challenging behaviour. As well, she has supported carers to offer meaningful activities and experiences and provided guidance to care homes on improving environments to become dementia friendly. Read more

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