Supporting dementia care in a time of crisis

Maura Dunne

Mary FogartyBray People

Wicklow Dementia Support has remained a presence in the lives of its clients, even through lock-down and cocooning.

It was volunteer coordinator Jenny O'Reilly who brought Maura Dunne and her husband Lee, who has dementia, in to the hospital recently when necessary.

'They are making telephone contact with people and where necessary dropping off supplies,' said Maura from Bray. 'The Alzheimer Society have also been in contact,' she said.

'Alzheimer Café', usually held weekly in person, has been taking place through Zoom on Fridays, and is a chance for people with dementia and their families to have a chat and some fun.

'There are outreaches,' certainly, said Maura, who lives on Ardee Street and was looking forward to welcoming Lee home from hospital after a stay unrelated to Covid-19.

There are some difficulties and challenges for families during this period of uncertainty and isolation.

'When you live with someone who has dementia they don't quite get what this is about, the fact that there is a disease around and you can't go out.'

Lee is 85 and therefore a cocoon candidate 'across the board' said Maura.

Not being able to go out is difficult, she said. 'You become somewhat reliant on television. It ceases to be a distraction or a comfort because for someone with dementia the lines of reality shift. What he could be watching on television appears very real.'

Lee might ask 'why are those people doing that?' or, kind-hearted soul that he is, 'do we have enough to feed all those folks?'

'Music is brilliant,' said Maura, who is looking at the possibility of not having the television on at all.

Another draw back is that in some cases if there has been home help that is not available, if considered non-essential, because of Covid-19.

Maura said that can leave family carers unsupported at this time for safety reasons.

'As time goes on, certainly for me, having help doing things will become more of an issue,' said Maura. 'How that will play out, I don't know

'I marvel at the grace and courage that Lee has,' she said. She said that people whose loved ones are in nursing homes are facing a huge challenge at the moment.

'With Lee in hospital for two weeks, I wasn't able to talk to him. His facility with the phone has diminished. In the entire two weeks I got to talk to him three or four times. The difference was that I knew he would be coming home. When someone is in a nursing home, people are going up to windows and may or may not see their loved one. I have a dear friend in that situation.'

She said that she and others have had to learn that this is not in their control, and they can only respond to it in the best way they know how, considering safety and considering others and themselves. 'I don't know if we will go out for a walk. Lee is less steady on his feet. That was already becoming an issue. If he fell I would not be able to pick him up and would have to get help, which would be an interaction with others I would rather avoid. I'm going to discuss it with the physio to see if there are things we could get that would help.' She said that there is a lot of uncertainty for many people, including those who have suffered bereavement and all that entails. 'People are mourning alone,' said Maura, who works in bereavement resource centre in the Irish Hospice Foundation. 'That is not a comforting way to mourn. The challenge now is going to be how do we meet this in ourselves, as individuals and as a community.'

She said that there are resources at on grieving in exceptional times.

Wicklow Dementia Support can be contacted at and the Alzheimer Society at 1800 341 341.

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