LIFE can be challenging enough for people living with dementia, let alone in a time of uncertainty like the current COVID-19 situation has created.

The staff at Bass Coast Health’s Kirrak House and Griffiths Point Lodge aged care services have adopted new strategies to meet the psychosocial needs of residents.

“We know this is a stressful time for residents and their families, and that is why the dedicated staff at Kirrak House and Griffiths Point Lodge continue to ensure our residents are able to remain as supported and engaged as possible while the community works through the COVID-19 situation,” said Kirrak House nurse unit manager Rebecca Grant.

Extended diversional therapy hours have been introduced into both services, including into evening and over the weekend. This will ensure that residents are provided with even more personal contact during the COVID-19 situation.

Due to the inability to provide the usual group-based activities and programs, there is more one-on-one engagement and interaction with diversional therapy staff in consultation with the residents, ensuring that the focus remains on their individual leisure interests and preferences.

Visiting to the service has been suspended to contain the spread of COVID-19, so to help residents and their families stay in touch, Kirrak House staff have started using digital and social media platform communications.

Residents and their loved ones are conversing via email, with staff helping residents to read and write emails.

Staff are also helping residents to learn new skills. One staff member is assisting a resident to continue their love of sewing, and others are enjoying the raised garden beds and vegetable plantings.

“Staff have been supporting residents out into the garden as much as possible while the season is still providing warmer temperatures,” Ms Grant said.

People with dementia living at home are being urged to maintain structure in their day and include activities they enjoy.

Changing activities every few hours helps break up one’s day. Schedule time for a walk or spend time in the garden, call a friend or family member, listen to music, or read or watch your favourite television show or movie.

The Dementia Australia Library also has a number of e-books and audiobooks available online.

For people living alone, having a strong support network is vital.

These networks may include family, friends, neighbours or professionals – anyone who can help with practical things you find difficult, look out for your wellbeing, or just be there to share your thoughts and concerns with.

Carers of people living with dementia are urged to ensure their loved one can connect with others by phone or via video links, and arrange regular phone calls.

A video calling program such as Skype or social media can help people with dementia stay in touch with others.

Having a list of contacts near the phone will enable people with dementia to reach contacts if they need to.

If people living with dementia don’t have relatives or friends, they can stay connected through online communities or forums, with some even allowing contact with other people with dementia.

An example is Dementia Alliance International (DAI), which offers peer-to-peer support groups for people with a diagnosis of a dementia.

Contact DAI at info@infodai.org or online.

Above all, be sure to ask for help if you need it by contacting your doctor or the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

You can read more about the novel coronavirus, including advice on symptoms and precautions, on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Visit the Bass Coast Health website for local updates.

For the most up-to-date information and advice about coronavirus, visit the Department of Health website.