VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The sudden loss of social interaction for people in B.C. living with dementia since the start of the pandemic is taking a severe toll. That’s according to those who work with people living with the disease.
Up until the pandemic hit, Leslie Stettler and Ramsey Oren had been running a social club for those living with early to mid stage dementia in Abbotsford, providing activities like music, art, exercise, cooking, virtual reality and games.
“We try to re-kindle an identity through the things that still remain,” Oren said.
Stettler adds, “it also gives them a chance to get out of their home and have some fun connecting with others at the same time.”
She recalled one of their members was confused when he first arrived. She said, he even had trouble getting out of the car when he was dropped off.
“But once we could coax him to come in and join the group we put on some of his favourite music. What a revelation, this man totally changed. He just came right to life.”
Leslie says stories like this aren’t uncommon. But as the more mature people are forced to isolate more stringently due to COVID-19, it’s other diseases, like Alzheimer’s that have been making devastating headway.
Jennifer Stewart with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. says she’s noticing many people are experiencing an accelerated decline in health due to a lack of stimulation during the pandemic.
“We have been hearing from families of individuals across the province are seeing that decline. These diseases are progressive which means the symptoms get worse and we’re hearing that progression is happening at a much more rapid pace because they don’t have the opportunities to be stimulated.”
The advice; if you’re living with someone with dementia, find extra opportunities to involve them with day to day activities.
For those living outside the home, keep up the letter writing, phone calls and video chats. Oren suggests adding a musical twist if you can.
“Play songs they enjoyed in their twenties, something you know they liked and sing with them on a Zoom call.”