Researchers share how to support loved ones suffering from the disease during the pandemic

Professor Victoria Traynor from the Illawarra Health and Medical Institute (IHMRI) and UOW’s School of Nursing is looking at how we can reconnect with people living with dementia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Traynor says the extended periods of isolation has led to a further breakdown in communication for people living with dementia and their loved ones.

“For many people living with dementia, they are already facing a journey of loneliness because their ability to recall memories is broken. The added impact of isolation during the pandemic has further impacted the opportunity for family and friends to connect with them.”

The World Health Organization reports there are around 50 million people living with dementia across the globe, with close to 10 million new cases recorded each year. It is estimated that the figure will close to triple by 2050, with the disease expected to impact 131.5 million people.

“As the population begins to live longer, we will all know somebody living with cognitive challenges. My research team and I are looking at how to improve communication with people living with dementia,” Professor Traynor said.

People diagnosed with dementia can live with the disease for 10-15 years before their death. Because of the communication breakdown with family and friends, there is an added implication of loneliness and isolation.

Dementia Australia advises that throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, person to person contact for those living with dementia has been minimised to reduce the potential spread of the virus.

Professor Traynor says it’s important for people with dementia during this period that communication with family and loved ones is maintained.

“It’s a very challenging time for people to stay connected with someone living with dementia. We are researching new ways to communicate with those affected by dementia. I encourage people to listen and observe their loved ones to get a better understanding of what they are thinking and feeling,” Professor Traynor said.

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