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Preserving Memories for Loved Ones During COVID-19

While dementia may not increase the risk of COVID-19, our medical directors advise us that behaviors associated with the disease can put patients at higher risk. Memory loss may affect hygiene habits such as effective handwashing, wearing a mask consistently or prevent them from social distancing.

It is also important, says Dr. Hector Cabrera, medical director at Wynhoven Health Care Center, to pay attention to behaviors such as increased agitation, confusion, sudden sadness or worsening dementia as these could be initial signs of COVID-19 or other infections.

Now more than four months into this pandemic, most of us are weary of isolation and loneliness. For elderly loved ones, whether in a residential facility or being cared for at home, the disruption in their daily schedules can be even more upsetting.

At Notre Dame Health System, and particularly in our memory care units, we are doing our best to maintain routines and structure by providing:

We encourage family members to continue sending cards, messages, photographs or children’s drawings to your loved ones so they know that you’re thinking of them. If you haven’t done so already, consider creating a memory box for a family member. A collection of mementoes and familiar objects, particularly for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, can help preserve memories longer. As many of us have cried shamelessly over the movie “The Notebook” when Noah reads to Allie from her notebook about their lives, we know that reminders from long ago can trigger memories.

Fill the box with photographs, documents, cards, letters, poems and newspaper clippings that have special significance. Caption photos with names, dates and places. If your loved one has a smart phone, send videos and pictures regularly to keep them updated on the family. These memories can benefit you as much them, so record your conversations especially those in which they recall a special celebration or something from their childhood that you might not have known about previously.

In this time of sheltering in place and isolation, it helps all of us to hold onto memories of days in a more normal time.

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