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Living With Alzheimer's: COVID-19 Proves To Add More Challenges For Patients & Caregivers

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for patients with Alzheimer's or those struggling with memory loss.

In Minnesota, nearly half of the people living in long-term care facilities have some form of dementia. For the last five years, WCCO has been documenting a Stillwater man's journey with the disease, at home.

As WCCO's Liz Collin found, the isolation for his caregiver these last few months may be most difficult of all.

"We do a lot of twirling around in circles," Peg Quinn said.

Quinn may have mastered that dance since the middle of March. Now, a Zoom call regular and an around-the-clock caregiver for her 81-year-old husband.

"So, in some ways our lives have changed less than just about anybody else's because we're really at home most the time anyway but on the other hand it's a bit of a lonely existence," Quinn said.

Like so many, the Quinn's have quarantined. But, in Peg's case she's forced to explain the COVID pandemic to Paul several times a day.

"We have many discussions about why we can't go to church, why he can't get a haircut," Quinn said. "He reads the newspaper, he watches the news but things just don't stick."

Sue Spalding is Chief Executive Officer of the Alzheimer's Association Minnesota, North Dakota Chapter.

"Unfortunately, yes our population is being impacted significantly and that is concerning," Spalding said.

They have switched their services online to continue to provide support during this global emergency.

"Caregivers are doing the best they can to try to keep most of those routines and not overstimulate somebody but their disease will progress much quicker," Spalding said.

Spalding is warning families that they will see a difference when in some cases, memory loss patients will be allowed out of their facilities and are face-to-face with their loved ones again.

"He always perks up as you know very well, when somebody is here he loves to talk with people, I hate to see that not happening," Quinn said.

Peg has noticed her husband doesn't stay interested in virtual conversations in the same way.  It's why she's reminding families and herself to hang in there and not lose heart.

From sending memory books to loved ones in long-term care, to making meals for caregivers, the Alzheimer's Association offers a long list of tips on their website.

To view other stories documenting the Quinn's family story click here.

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