Social distancing affects visitations with Alzheimer’s patients

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Social isolation can be hard on anyone.  But especially those patients with Alzheimer’s.

“They don’t understand why they can’t physically hug their loved ones,” said Candie Gray, executive director at Arcadia Senior Living.

Gray has witnessed firsthand the effect of social distancing on her patients. Alzheimer and dementia patients are used to their family visiting them in their care facility for social interaction.

Going without visits for an extended period of time is a disruption in their routine. And Dr. Greg Perri from Southern Kentucky Rehabilitation Center says this can be frustrating and stressful for some patients, depending on the stage of the illness, and leave them to wonder why they aren’t visiting as often.

“They might think back to a time where they had conflict with that individual. And they might think ‘OK is my daughter still mad at me’ or ‘are we still in the midst of that conflict’ that we had during a previous time period,” said Perri.

Perri also said that one of the fall-out effects of the pandemic is that not only do they have restrictions on visitations, but they can’t participate in these activities that help mitigate the progression of the disease. 

“Being able to socialize, being able to be physically active, being able to engage the mind in different cognitive exercises, now they might still be able to do that latter category but it becomes a real challenge,” said Perri.

But Gray says not much has changed at Arcadia, as they have a beautiful outdoor space for socially distanced family visits, and can even visit through the window or the online Zoom application that allows virtual face-to-face conversations. They’ve also found fun ways to keep patients entertained. 

“Zoom bingo, that’s been huge. We’ve had drive-by parades, we’ve had some different local organizations that we’ve been able to have dinosaurs out dancing around our buildings,” said Gray.