Supporting people with dementia and carers during Covid-19

Many people living at home with dementia and their carers depend heavily on the interaction and support of day respite provided by HammondCare Social Clubs and have been hard hit by the necessary closure of these services due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Research has shown that planned and crisis respite helps people with dementia to live at home for longer, delaying entry into residential care, and that up to nine out of 10 services show very high demand for their service.

Richard Geeves 01 400Manager of the Richard Geeves Centre in North Turramurra, Eva Jahromi, said she was aware that many carers were struggling, as the respite they have received was an important part of managing care for their loved one.

Richard Geeves can currently only have one client at a time, with all surfaces sanitised before and after their visit, to comply with Covid-19 restrictions. Knowing this, the Richard Geeves team and their colleagues at other HammondCare Social Clubs across NSW, are doing everything they can to fill the gap while restrictions on gatherings are in place.

“Just because we need to keep the centre closed to groups to protect vulnerable older people, doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to help,” Eva said.

“We know it can be a lonely time for carers and clients, many of whom are anxious about how long this period of isolation will last,” Eva said.

“So we are very busy exploring different ways to support our clients and carers including phone support to provide connection and reassurance, as well as a pen pal system where we are exchanging letters with carers and clients.

“We are also creating activity packs and baking treats and dropping these at the front door for each client and carer. This contact is warmly received.”

Eva described other innovative and creative responses from the Richard Geeves team to the current challenges, targeting those with the most need.

“One family contacted us after an older relative with dementia, Ross, moved into their home for the first time about six weeks ago. They were searching for support and direction and we arranged for him to be our one client at Richard Geeves twice a week, often with his pet dog.

Richard Geeves 03 400px“Another carer phoned to say her husband, Dennis, was not coping well with the Covid-19 restrictions and was desperate to come to the centre. We've been able to achieve this – I phone him every Thursday morning and invite him to join me on the park bench, with social distancing, in the centre’s front yard.

“He comes and shares Bible verses and sings hymns with me that he has prepared all week, which is his passion. His wife tells me this is the highlight of his week now.”

Eva said that for some carers and clients experiencing extreme hardship during this time, the Richard Geeves team were able to provide a limited range of activities in the home, that might normally occur at the centre.

Observing all screening, hygiene and social distancing requirements, these include art sessions, Bible chats, building projects, baking – with staff taking all the materials and ingredients needed, much to the delight of carers and clients.

The team is also sharing their expertise in social engagement with both HammondCare North Turramurra and Wahroonga residential care homes for two hours each morning, and the response has been extremely positive.

For more information about the normal operation of HammondCare social clubs, click here.

Captions: Top - Richard Geeves Manager Eva Jahromi discusses Bible verses and stories from his life with Dennis. Below - Client Ross displays his carpentry skills to staff member Amalia at Richard Geeves Centre.