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Wearing Face Masks Can Be A Struggle For Those Who Suffer From Alzheimer's, Dementia

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)- Staff at one of Colorado's Veteran Living Communities are facing new hurdles when it comes to protecting residents and controlling the spread of COVID-19. The Veterans Community Living Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora is home to 137 veterans.

The Colorado Department of Human Services said as of Thursday, nine residents had died from complications related to the virus and a total of 42 residents and 14 staff members were positive for COVID-19.

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(credit: National Jewish Health)

"We are doing everything we can think of and everyday trying to figure out what the other things are that we could possibly do to stop the spread of this virus and it's devastating to our staff who are working that hard," said Perry May, Deputy Executive Director of Health Facilities for CDHS.

Fitzsimons is one of four state-run living communities for veterans and the only one so far with reported cases.

Perry says they have been taking extreme precautions for months now and even recently passed an emergency preparedness inspection.

"The virus still finds a way to get in," he said.

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(credit: CBS)

A big part of the problem is that getting residents to comply? It's complicated, especially when many struggle with Alzheimer's and dementia.

"Helping those folks to wear masks and to continue to wear masks or to social distance is difficult because, you know, a few minutes after you work with them to get a mask on, they then don't realize why they have a mask on and take it off- or the same thing goes for social distancing," he said.

Some residents outside of the memory care unit simply don't want to.

"There are some, who have some pretty strong opinions about whether they need to wear a mask or not so those are the things that the staff work very, very hard to help folks understand."
It can be a difficult balance for staff who know the veteran residents in particular thrive off of their social connections.

"You know this is their home and our staff work very very hard to make it their home. We can't do communal dining anymore, we have to have them try and stay in their rooms so the social interactions are much more limited so it's been extremely difficult for the staff and for the residents," he continued, "We have extra staff that are coming in to spend extra time with residents to be able to be with them which unfortunately is also difficult because our staff have to be in there with PPE on, masks and so fourth and that can be a little troubling for some of our residents as well."

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(credit: CBS)

Despite the restrictions, Perry says staff are constantly trying to find ways to make sure the residents don't feel alone.

"You know these veterans risked their lives to protect us and now it's time to do everything that we can to protect them and our staff are passionate about doing that and it's humbling to see that."

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