Families caring for loved ones with dementia describe added struggle during pandemic

Many dementia patients are dependent on steady routines and vulnerable to the disruption the virus has created.


Thousands of family and friends caring for those with Alzheimer's are navigating uncharted waters during the coronavirus pandemic.

Anne Regucci is one of them.

“My new mantra is prayer, patience, sense of humor and wine. Not necessarily in that order,” Anne laughed.

Anne’s husband, Larry Regucii, was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2016. After that diagnosis, Anne said his condition slowly deteriorated. Several years later, he was diagnosed with mixed dementia.

According to his wife, Larry’s short-term memory is nearly non-existent, but the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the struggle.

“He will wear the mask in the store, but he continues to take it down,” Anne said. “I have to keep reminding him, '(You) gotta keep the mask on. You can’t stop and chit-chat with everybody you see like you used to.’”

Larry represents the struggle for many dementia patients like him who are dependent on steady routines and vulnerable to the disruption the virus has created.

Larry still lives at home with Anne in Greenville, South Carolina. However, there are thousands living with dementia who must stay at elderly and long-term care facilities. The pandemic’s abrupt halt to visitors at these care facilities has been especially tough for those with dementia, many of whom can’t understand why their loved ones are no longer coming to visit.

Some family members who are visiting through a window in a care facility frustrates their loved one even more, according to Beth Sulkowski, Vice President of Communications for South Carolina’s Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.

“In some cases, they don’t understand why they can’t come inside and visit," Sulkowski said. "So in those cases, the family members have been making phone calls.”

Sulkowski says that the Alzheimer’s Association is now offering virtual support groups, specifically for family members caring for someone in a facility. It teaches them how to cope with their feelings and help stay connected with their loved ones during trying times.

“A person living with dementia is kind of living in the now,” Sulkowski said. “And so those who are caring for them have to live in the now as well.”

The 24-hour help line for assistance with a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is (800)272-3900.