How do you explain Corona to people that are mentally disabled?

The corona virus raises many questions. About your health and that of your loved ones. About the far-reaching measures taken by the government. The information we receive through the news or newspapers may not always be easy to follow for everyone. Social media posts may not always be true. How do you discuss corona with someone with a cognitive impairment?


To discuss corona with someone with a cognitive impairment

  • Their peace of mind starts with you. Conditions have changed. Day care is closed. Family is no longer allowed to visit. Volunteers are no longer allowed to come. The group size is limited.

Vulnerable people notice this change, so anxious or restless behavior is a logical response. This can be temporary. Most people that have a cognitive impairment bend to our emotions, our pace, our peace or our restlessness. The best approach is therefore to keep looking at your own emotions, your own pace and your own peace of mind.

  • Facilities for the elderly and for people with special needs are ‘locked’. This measure has been taken to better protect residents and carers against the corona virus. Vulnerable people will therefore receive fewer visitors in the coming period. Feelings of isolation, boredom and gloom lurk. Contact is essential. So make sure they know they will not be forgotten! Provide sufficient alternative contacts and activities. Call more often, send a text message, send a nice card or let (grand) children draw a picture. See if you can make video calls.
  • Avoid unnecessary communication about the Corona virus. So also make sure that you do not unnecessarily talk to colleagues and/or family members about the situation, do not keep the radio or TV on for too long. If you feel the need to talk about Corona, which is very understandable, do it as little as possible in front of your loved ones with a cognitive impairment. Try to find other moments and places for this. Of course you want to inform them about it if there are questions. Then get appropriate attention on the subject of Corona. A little restlessness makes sense for both you and them, but remember their peace of mind starts with you.
  • The days look different, but try to keep as much rhythm as possible. Keep the day programs as they were as much as possible. Make sure they are printed. Make the days as normal as possible.
  • You can also wash their hands in a bowl on the table, on the ground or on the wheelchair tray. This can even be a pleasant contact moment and a nice sensation with lukewarm or warm water and nice smelling soap. Pay attention to your own safety by, for example, wearing gloves. Also pay attention to their safety, for example by making sure that he / she does not put soap in her / his
  • You may have a signaling function as most people with a cognitive impairment cannot report themselves when they experience flu symptoms. Therefore, it is your task to watch for symptoms of illness. Pay attention to signs of discomfort you didn’t notice before (for example, moaning, crying, screaming and facial expression), sudden changes in behavior (for example, seeking comfort) or (increased) self-injury.
  • And last but not least, if you need to discuss corona with someone with a cognitive impairment there is a small experiment that may help you tell the story. Fill 1 small bowl with water and 1 bowl with coarse ground pepper. Put your finger in the pepper and the water and show that ‘fabrics’ remain on your finger. Put soap on a clean finger with soap and put your finger in the bowl with water and pepper; the pepper will disappear to the edges of the bowl!

Try to avoid that you have to discuss corona with someone with a cognitive impairment as much as possible. But if you have to, be clear and show understanding.

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