The team at Live Better With understands that this is a worrying time for people living with dementia and their families and carers.
We want to be sure that we are supporting people who are part of the Live Better With community with up-to-date information and helpful advice. This is the first of a series of articles that will be published about COVID-19 and its implications. We are encouraging you to contact us if you have any specific questions and worries, we will endeavour to answer your questions honestly and in a reassuring way, based on the latest evidence, and guidance issued by credible sources.
What is coronavirus and COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new illness, caused by a type of coronavirus, which has only recently become evident in the UK. It is highly infectious and poses widespread public health risk. The Government has drawn up and is implementing an action plan to delay its spread, to minimise the impact on the UK population.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 affects the lungs and respiratory airways. For many people, the symptoms will be mild and manageable, lasting for about a week. In severe cases, the virus can cause complications, resulting in pneumonia. In these cases, people affected will need specialist treatment.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of COVID-19 are high temperature, fever, tiredness and a new, continuous cough.
If you develop these symptoms, the advice is to stay at home for seven days and minimise or, if possible, avoid contact with anyone, to prevent passing the virus on.
People who have the symptoms of COVID-19 are being asked not to go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Also, that there is no need to call 111.
For most people, COVID-19 will cause mild symptoms and they will recover quickly. Testing is not needed.
However, some people – especially older people and people with underlying health conditions – are at greater risk of developing complications and further help might be needed including admission to hospital for specialist treatment.
Who is most at risk?
COVID-19 poses greater risk for older people and people with underlying health problems, especially those with conditions that compromise the immune system. Most people who have dementia are older people and many have other health conditions. For these reasons, it is important to take precautions to prevent infection.
How can I stay safe and avoid contracting the virus?
Because the virus that causes COVID-19 is new, much is still unknown about how it behaves, however similar viruses that cause colds and ‘flu are spread in droplets of fluid projected into the atmosphere when someone with the condition coughs or sneezes.
The advice that is being given to anyone who has a cough, whether or not they have, or think they have, the virus, is to cough into a tissue and then to put the tissue in a bin straightway. If you are in a public place, or at home, and do not have a tissue immediately available, you should cough into your sleeve and then wash the garment as soon as you can afterwards. It is really important to avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands. If you do, you should wash them thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds) with soap and warm water or use hand sanitiser as soon as you can and avoid touching anything in the meantime. Hand hygiene is the single most important way to reduce the likelihood of spreading this virus.
In summary, to prevent the risk of infection and transmitting infection:
- Wash your hands often – much more often than you usually would – with soap and warm water. Do this for at least 20 seconds each time.
- Always wash your hands when you get home after being in a public place, also when you arrive at a destination. It should be the first thing you do!
- Washing with soap and warm water is the best approach to cleaning your hands, but if you are not able to use soap and water, hand sanitiser gel is a good alternative.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze whether or not you think you have, or have been diagnosed with, the virus and put used tissues in a bin immediately
- Avoid touching your face, especially your nose, eyes and mouth, as this will increase the risk of contracting infection.
What do I do if I think I have COVID-19 or if I am worried about the person I am caring for?
The current advice is to self-isolate if you develop symptoms that might indicate that you have the virus. This means staying at home for seven days, resting and drinking plenty of water.
If you have been in close contact recently with someone who has since been diagnosed with COVID-19, or has developed symptoms, you should self-isolate for 14 days. This allows for the incubation period, which is thought to be between one and 14 days, most commonly around five days. If, after 14 days, you are still well and have not developed symptoms, it is likely that you are not infected and it is safe for you to resume normal activities, continuing to take steps to protect yourself and others from infection.
Is there a treatment for COVID-19?
There is no treatment that will combat COVID-19 currently. Authorities are taking measures to develop a vaccine however this will take some time. Until then, the best form of protection is to avoid contact with people who have the virus and minimise the risk of contracting the virus by taking the precautions outlined above.
How can I find out more information and get help if I am concerned?
The Government is updating advice and guidance constantly as the coronavirus situation unfolds. You should keep checking the key web pages on the Government website, key links below:
- Coronavirus guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-guidance
- Coronavirus Action Plan: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan
- COVID-19 satay at home guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance
The NHS is providing excellent, evidence-based advice, to keep up to date, follow the link below:
- NHS - Coronavirus Overview: symptoms & what to do if you think you might have the coronavirus https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
You can also find useful information on the World Health Organisation website:
- Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19): https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
The BBC has published some useful advice on staying safe:
- Coronavirus: what should I do? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51711227
Help and advice specifically in relation to dementia:
- Admiral Nurses Dementia Helpline: Admiral Nurses are dementia specialist nurses. They work in community, care home and hospital environments, they also have a telephone helpline which is open every day. Via the Helpline, Admiral Nurses can provide support for anyone worried about the spread of this coronavirus and risks to carers and people living with dementia. The Helpline is open seven days a week, Monday to Friday from 9am to 9pm, and 9am to 5pm at the weekend. You can call on 0800 888 6678 or email email@example.com