HOUSTON — The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to find new and creative ways to navigate our daily lives, causing most of us to work from home and take virtual classes online. The ramifications of social distancing has not only taken our normality but it has separated us from our loved ones, leaving those living in senior care facilities with little to hardly any family contact.

COVID survivor and CEO of MKR Senior Health Strategist, Malana Rideaux, has experienced the effects of the coronavirus and how it has affected the elders in her senior care facilities. Through her works in the health care industry, Rideaux contracted the coronavirus and knows first-hand how the virus can ravish your mind, body and spirit.

“This new normal that we have all been forced to adhere to has been hard on the strongest and healthiest of us, but for those with disabilities, you can’t begin to imagine,” said Rideaux. “I have seen it all and fought my way back from death’s door but my heart cries for patients suffering from dementia the most.”

Rideaux wants the community and senior care partnerships throughout Houston to understand how much this pandemic is affecting our most vulnerable citizens, especially those suffering with dementia.

“We all know the rules; wash your hands, don’t touch your face, wear a mask; but it goes beyond that for dementia patients because they can’t remember to wash their hands and not to touch their face,” said Rideaux. “They rarely remember their names and what year it is.”

Rideaux created a guide to help those caring for dementia patients during the COVID-19/ coronavirus health crisis.

1. Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients feed off of our reactions. They may not hear or understand what we are saying but if they see us acting worried or anxious, they will respond in mirror fashion. So, as best as we can, we have to develop a sense of calm when around our loved ones with dementia. And again, because we are human, don’t expect to be able to do this all the time! Just be conscious of how you are presenting and how your loved one may read/respond to it. For example; wiping down packages and counters, etc. should be done out of eyeshot of our loved ones when possible.

2. Choose positive, light entertainment.  We always caution about the influence television shows have on the reality of our loved ones with dementia. Sometimes, they believe a show they are watching is actually happening to them and they are a part of it. Others may take aspects of a program, intermingle it with an old memory and it suddenly becomes the present reality. Routine is a huge deal for dementia patients so if they are an avid news watcher tune into the news later in the broadcast to avoid ‘breaking news” or lead stories that will surely be about the COVID-19 virus.

3. Social distancing can be difficult but is important. Your loved one with dementia may count on seeing grandchildren, adult children and close friends on a regular basis. But as we all know, social distancing among people who don’t live with us daily is key to minimizing COVID-19’s spread. So try to utilize modern technology via FaceTime or Zoom visits or any of the many other telecommunication modes available now.  Weather permitting, grandchildren can visit outdoors and wave through windows. Maybe they can even put on a performance in the backyard that your loved one can watch! Again, explain the distance simply and without a lot of details. “We’re doing this just for now so we all stay healthy.” Or, “the kids have colds and don’t want to give them to you.” Stretching the truth is perfectly acceptable when trying to keep your loved ones calm and safe and dignity intact.