CLEVELAND — The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a physical, emotional, and financial toll on millions of Americans and experts say it’s wreaking havoc on the Alzheimer’s Disease community with the separation of families due to visitation restrictions and the highest Alzheimer’s Disease death rate in recent years.
It’s been nearly eight months since daily routines were turned upside down due to the COVID-19 virus arriving in America.
“This has been extremely difficult on the families who cannot go in,” Eric VanVlymen said.
An advocate said for families caring for Alzheimer’s Disease patients, it’s felt more like a lifetime.
“Disconnected from the ability to see them in person, to feel them, to hug on them and love on them,” Deneen Day said. “It was devastating.”
Day’s mother, Tillie Day, died of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease while living in a long-term care facility in July.
“Between hospice and myself, we were trying to give her the most loving care that we could during her end-stage,” Day said.
However, plans to shower her mother in love during her final days were derailed by visitation restrictions at those facilities because of the coronavirus.
“When the visitation restrictions occurred, her confusion was that that person wasn't coming to see her,” Day said. “And that starts the whole isolation.”
VanVlymen, Regional Director of the Ohio Alzheimer’s Association, said it’s a heartbreaking hurdle that more than five million American families are facing.
“People in facilities have really just stepped up and done so much,” VanVlymen said. “But it doesn't replace what can happen as a family in that presence.”
VanVlymen said families have been forced to communicate through window visits and video chats or care for their ailing loved one while maintaining work-from-home job expectations.
“About 70% of people with Alzheimer's live at home and 30% are in facilities,” VanVlymen said. “So that, you know, those two groups were just greatly affected by this.”
While typical fundraising events to raise awareness for the disease have been postponed or canceled due to the pandemic, VanVlymen said support groups are still on standby for struggling families.
“We have actually been proactive,” VanVlymen said. “So instead of just waiting for people to call, we’ve actually been working through our list and calling families and checking in on them.”
Four months after the passing of her beloved mother, Day wants other Ohio families to know they’re not alone.
“I can't emphasize enough the self-care part of it,” Day said. “Making sure you don't stay in the moment of the despair of not being able to see them.”