Q:My grandmother has dementia. Do you have any tips or guidance that I can follow to help support her and her daily needs?
Christine Spencer, Maui County regional coordinator, Alzheimer’s Association: Most likely, dementia does not increase risk for COVID-19, just like dementia does not increase risk for the flu. However, dementia-related behaviors, increased age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia may increase risk.
For example, people with Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementia may forget to wash their hands or take other recommended precautions to prevent illness.
Caregivers of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and all other dementia should follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and consider the following tips:
• For people living with dementia, increased confusion is often the first symptom of any illness. If a person living with dementia shows rapidly increased confusion, contact your health care provider for advice. Unless the person is having difficulty breathing or has a high fever, it is recommended that you call your health care provider instead of going directly to an emergency room. Your doctor may be able to treat the person without a visit to the hospital.
• People living with dementia may need extra and/or written reminders and support to remember important hygienic practices from one day to the next.
• Consider placing signs in the bathroom and elsewhere to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds.
• Demonstrate thorough hand-washing.
• Have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol around the house as a quick alternative to hand-washing if the person with dementia cannot wash their hands easily.
• Ask your pharmacist or doctor about filling prescriptions for a greater number of days in advance to reduce trips to the pharmacy.
• Make alternative plans for the person with dementia should adult day care and care services be modified due to COVID-19. Ask for support or find activities to do at home.
• Think ahead and make alternative plans for care management if the primary caregiver should become sick.
The Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter has a 24/7 Helpline for caregivers and all those affected by the disease: (800) 272-3900. We are also now offering telephone support groups for Maui County and online services through June. Please call (808) 518-6650 for more information.
Q: Is it safe to go surfing? What is known about the risk of going in the ocean during coronavirus?
Dr. David Ulin, chief medical director, Maui Health: First of all, it’s good that you’re getting exercise. Moving your body and staying fit is very important for your overall health, and we all know how powerful the ocean can be in healing our mind, body and spirit.
When it comes to surfing and swimming in the ocean, first make sure to check current state and county rules about using beach parks and follow those orders.
As for whether or not it’s safe to go in the water, there’s still a lot we don’t know about this coronavirus, how it’s transmitted and how long it survives in ocean water. However, more recently, the CDC and several infectious disease experts have said that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from virus particles in the water is thought to be low with no evidence that anyone has gotten COVID-19 from recreational water.
That being said, it’s still important to practice social distancing when you’re out there waiting for waves, as well as when you’re in the parking lot and walking across the beach.
As always, it’s a good idea to avoid surfing in areas where there’s a lot of runoff, and you should rinse off with fresh water both before and after going in the water.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on some Thursdays of the month. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealth.org/healthwise.