Alzheimer’s patients are warming up to the state’s reopening
Peter and Molly Delevett are beginning to travel again — cautiously — as public health authorities deem it safe to venture out more.
The couple has traveled internationally and is accustomed to bouncing between their homes in Sarasota, Fla., and Santa Barbara. Dr. Peter Delevett became an avid scuba diver, exploring both land and sea.
Dr. Delevett practiced anesthesiology and, on occasion, hyperbaric medicine (a treatment that helps bring more oxygen to patients’ blood). He opened up a multispecialty clinic alongside other doctors and even a free medical clinic, both in Florida.
He likes to work every now and then at the clinic, but the pandemic has delayed the couple’s plans.
June 15 marked the state’s end to a tiered reopening system, but some individuals are still gradually becoming comfortable.
Dr. Delevett has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, something he is cognizant of but not debilitated by.
He is on the board of the Alzheimer’s Association California Central Coast Chapter, and he and Mrs. Delevett stay engaged in their Alzheimer’s support group.
Their community was shaken by the pandemic, and the state’s reopening brought new considerations to families.
“Reopening, for many families with dementia, is going to be a very slow process,” Lindsey Leonard, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association California Central Coast Chapter, told the News-Press.
She noted that people with dementia have higher levels of stress, a link affirmed by many scientific studies. They can also struggle with feelings of abandonment.
“The past year of isolation, we’re going to see the impacts of that change in the coming months,” Ms. Leonard said.
Caretakers of Alzheimer’s patients took on extra responsibility.
“A lot of households with people with dementia stopped having interactions with other people,” she said. “They had to be extra vigilant with health precautions. Services were restricted and limited — but their needs didn’t change.”
The Delevetts’ support group increased their meetings from biweekly to weekly when patients began to shelter in place. The group met for two hours via Zoom with separate times for caretakers and patients.
Now they are beginning to see their support-group friends in person.
Support services are opening again for many conditions, and caregivers are able to find additional help and time off.
The Delevetts feel confident leaving the house, and they continue to wear their masks. But they hope the “return to normal” that some talk about is a new normal.
“I’m a little concerned about if things kick back up in the fall again or if there’s going to be another pandemic,” Mr. Delevett said. “Hopefully we can learn from this and continue washing our hands and not coughing on people.”
He notices his grandkids take precautions and is encouraged by new generations’ ability to adapt.
The couple hopes some pandemic precautions will become widely embraced, like vaccination. They expect masks for those who aren’t inoculated.
“I think we have to be not only aware of ourselves, we have to be aware of other people. We have to care for other people,” Mrs. Delevett said.
She notices the six-foot distance seems to be getting shorter.
“People being very respectful and mindful of the level of comfort of an elderly person is important as we reopen. This can be a very delicate matter,” Ms. Leonard said.
The Delevetts also noted that seniors have been hurt by the pandemic, both physically and emotionally. Those with pre-existing conditions, like Alzheimer’s, have additional considerations.
“The pandemic overall has disproportionately affected those living with a disease because they have a diagnosis that puts them at higher risk. It doesn’t increase their risk of contracting COVID-19, but some dementia behaviors can be dangerous,” Ms. Leonard said.
She gave examples, like forgetting to wash hands or bring face coverings. Caretakers have become more important to their loved ones’ health as they oversee precautions.
Now these groups of patients and caretakers are re-emerging cautiously. Some are even continuing isolation in an abundance of caution.
The Delevetts recently ventured out for the first time since the pandemic’s inception. They traveled to San Jose to see their son.