Dementia in the days of COVID-19: Linda & Ruth's story

British Columbia

During this time of increased isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people living with dementia and the people who care for them are disconnected from support networks and facing unexpected challenges. It is the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s mission to ensure that no one walks alone on the dementia journey. Now and in the coming weeks, caregivers and people living with dementia will share their everyday challenges and successes as a part of our Dementia in the days of COVID-19 series.

Linda and Ruth smiling and posing for a photo.

Linda and Ruth's update: One year later

Last December, Linda Hodgkin was Christmas shopping in Courtenay with her friend Ruth Seabloom when the two became separated. Suddenly Linda, who lives with vascular dementia, couldn’t find the car or Ruth. She didn’t know where to go or what to do. As she grew exceedingly anxious, a young woman working in a nearby salon spotted Linda and offered to walk around the town centre with her until they found Ruth. It wasn’t long before they did – but the encounter has had a lasting effect.  

“That had a very big impact on me,” says Linda, who lives alone with her miniature schnauzer Bentley. “I have more confidence in myself now knowing that there is community support.”

It was evidence that people will step up to help out, and that she can make it through difficult situations. This last year has been an ongoing difficult situation, with many of the routines and tools that Linda relies on to live well curtailed due to COVID-19. She loved in-person card making, hand drumming and Girl Guiding meetups. These activities just weren’t the same over Zoom. Even the word “Zoom” is something Linda would rather go without at this point in the pandemic. Instead of focusing on the losses, however, Linda is spending more time gardening, riding her bike, kayaking (sometimes with Bentley) and creating processes that allow her to remain independent with support from Ruth.

“I’ve learned to live with it,” Linda says. “There was a while there where I was lost and I felt like I wasn’t me, but now I feel like I’m me again.”

Among the tools that Linda uses to help her day to day are Google’s Alexa and her iPad. She has reminders set to go off throughout the day and when it comes to cooking, Linda and Ruth have worked out a visual reminder system. When a meal is in the microwave, a blue flower is stuck to the door. When the meal is removed, so is the flower. They regularly attend Alzheimer Society of B.C. webinars for ongoing dementia education and they participate in online Minds in Motion®. Linda also took part in UBC’s Dementia Week, when she presented to medical students all the ways she lives well with dementia and allowed them to ask questions about her experience. It was empowering.

While they do still miss all the in-person activities pre-COVID, the warmer weather has brought with it at least one win. Linda’s hand drumming class resumed outdoors.

“It’s a new group that doesn’t know each other – and it’s like everyone is on the same page,” she says. “I have my own drum, but when you’re playing with other people, it’s amazing.”

Linda and Ruth have been close friends since 1997. The pair continues to miss the sense of support they felt within their community while attending in-person Minds in Motion® sessions, but they are choosing to focus on activities available to them. They plan to spend time camping this summer.

“When life throws you lemons, make lemonade,” Linda says. “There are still things you can do. Getting out of the house is important.”

“You can get bogged down with trying to remember all of the things that you have to do,” Ruth adds. “You’ll just feel better if you just get out of the house.”

Linda and Ruth's story: Celebrating the little wins during COVID-19 (June 2020)

When Linda Hodgkin, a life-long member of Girl Guides, was diagnosed with dementia, she applied the Guiding Promise to her life.

“I promised I would do my best,” Linda says. “So far I am, but it’s getting harder.”

Linda lives independently in Courtenay with the support of her friend Ruth Seabloom. The two women met through Girl Guiding many years ago and have remained close, spending much of their time together, including weekly attendance at Minds in Motion®, the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s fitness and social program for people in the early stages of dementia and a care partner. Since physical distancing measures were put in place to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, life for the two women has changed drastically.

“The biggest thing that I’m struggling with is Minds in Motion®,” Linda says. “It offered activities that were mental and physical and I’m really missing it. We had become a close group and met outside the group. It’s hard.”

Linda also took drumming and card-making classes and went for walks around her neighbourhood with her dog Bentley. Now she’s no longer confident in her ability to venture out on her own and the in-person activities that made up her routine have been replaced with fear of forgetting the physical distancing guidelines and the feeling that she’s negatively affecting Ruth’s life with her need for added support. While Ruth insists that’s far from the case, both women agree that it’s a challenging time – and one when we all need to be kinder to ourselves.

“I wasn’t lonely before when I was on my own,” says Linda. “I would talk to my neighbours. I would go for walks on the beach. I can’t do that anymore. Now I’m trying to celebrate the little wins. I made biscuits last night. I hate to cook, but I did well.”

Even though activities might be cancelled, it’s important to keep structure in your life and communicate with your friends as much as you can, Ruth says. “No one can be alone all of the time.”

“Don’t worry about hitting a homer all of the time,” Linda adds. “Just get to first base and walk from there.”

If you have questions or concerns about dementia or caring for someone living with dementia, call the First Link® Dementia Helpline. Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. in English (1-800-936-6033) and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. in Cantonese or Mandarin (1-833-674-5007) and Punjabi (1-833-674-5003).

To explore the rest of our "Dementia in the days of COVID-19" stories, visit: