Supporting someone to meet the recommended protocols

Information on supporting someone living with dementia to meet the recommended physical distancing and hygiene protocols during COVID-19.

Woman putting on a mask.

Supporting someone to meet the physical distancing protocols

Some people living with dementia may be unable to remember, or may not understand, the reasoning for the current physical distancing protocols. The person may forget that they cannot go over to the neighbour’s backyard for a daily chat, meet their friends for coffee at a coffee shop, or that it is not safe to meet the mail carrier at the end of the driveway.

To support them to meet the physical distancing protocols, consider the following tips:

  • Put signs on doors to remind them not to leave the house.
  • Accompany them if they normally go for walks by themselves in the neighbourhood to help ensure physical distancing is maintained.
  • Ask friends and family to reinforce the importance of alternative modes of connecting such by phone, Skype, or an online platform like Zoom.
  • Put shoes and jackets away. Out of sight, out of mind. 
  • Explore strategies for minimizing restlessness, boredom, and loneliness (see section: Activities to try while physical distancing).
  • Arrange for groceries, medications and other necessary supplies to be delivered to their home. BC211’s program ‘Safe Seniors, Strong Communities’ matches seniors who need support with non-medical essentials, to volunteers in their community who are willing to help. Volunteers can provide support for a number of activities including:
    • Grocery shopping and delivery.
    • Meal preparation and delivery.
    • Prescription pickup and delivery.
    • Phone and/or virtual friendly visits.

Supporting someone to meet the recommended hygiene protocols

The government has strongly advised that a key way to protect yourself and help prevent spreading the virus to others is by regularly washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds. As best you can, encourage the person living with dementia to increase their hand hygiene practices.

Practical tips may include: 

  • Placing signs in the bathroom and around the house with reminders to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds. The Public Health Agency of Canada has an infographic on handwashing which may be helpful.
  • Provide extra and/or written reminders and support to remember important hygienic practices from one day to the next.
  • Use other cues to remind the person what to do. Try using a "watch me" technique or lead by example. Put your hand over the person's hand, gently guiding the washing actions.
  • Coach the person through each step. For example: “Wash between your fingers.” "Scrub under your nails."
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be a quick alternative to handwashing if the person with dementia cannot get to a sink or wash his/her hands easily.

As with all personal care, maintaining a person-centered approach is key. Try to promote independence and incorporate what the person can do - for example, ask the person living with dementia to help you wash up the dishes. Even if the dishes need rewashing later, this can help keep the person's hands clean. 

For more general information and advice on providing personal care to people living with dementia, the Alzheimer Society of Canada has a booklet available.