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Coronavirus And Alzheimer's: How To Continue Social Connection Despite Social Distancing

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- In this time of social distancing, many families and caregivers of those who suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia are struggling.

For those who suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia, social connection means everything. But now, in this time of social distancing, it's a difficult concept for them to grasp.

For the past five years, 57-year old Steven Owens has been dealing with an early-onset Alzheimer's.

"I guess I kind of go back and forth. Not really stable in my opinion," Owens said.

While the disease itself does not necessarily place patients at high-risk for contracting the coronavirus, patients and their caregivers still face a range of special challenges.


"It's definitely difficult and it requires a lot of patience and compassion and love and understanding," Shelette Grant-Owens, Steven's wife, said.

She is just one of many families in Baltimore who usually rely on daycare programs for their loved ones.

"He still is a little confused because he gets up all hours of the night. At like 3 a.m. all the time, thinking that he still is either going to work or to the daycare," Grant-Owens said.

But now, they're finding themselves with full-time responsibilities.

"Really what we monitor for is any increased confusion. That's always the telltale sign in someone with dementia that there may be something going on," Kristi Mroz, Program Manager of Alzheimer's Association of Greater Maryland, said.

Routine is crucial for those who suffer from memory loss, according to Mroz.

"People with dementia have a really difficult time following steps, so something as simple as washing your hands can be very difficult and stressful for them, Mroz said.

It is also important to stimulate your loved one's brain with simple and familiar things.

"Now that COVID-19 is here and this is our new normal," Grant-Owens said.

But now more than ever, it's important to stay connected, whether it's through a window or a video call.


"We're just trying to make the best of it," Grant-Owens said.

Family members also have an additional concern and that's if they themselves ever get sick. That's why it's so important to always have a backup plan.

The Alzheimer's Association of Greater Maryland's office is not open right now, but they are still offering services virtually.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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