How to support someone with dementia to wear a face mask

Some people with dementia do not like wearing a face mask and may struggle to understand why they need to wear one.

The Alzheimer’s Society have provided some useful guidance to help dementia carers provide support.

What can I do if a person with dementia won’t wear a face covering?

It’s safer for everyone if we all follow the guidance on face coverings. If the person finds wearing a face covering difficult, try to understand why. 

Be patient and offer encouragement – if you show frustration or irritation, the person will pick up on this.

  • Do they simply forget why it’s needed? Consider a sign up by the door for when you go out. You may need to gently remind the person we’re still in a pandemic.
  • Does the mask fit comfortably? Try different styles or looser fastenings if it’s too tight
  • Are they unhappy with the feel of the fabric? Try some different materials, maybe one made from a familiar garment (check with them first before cutting the fabric).
  • Do they pull the cover down? Try some distraction or positive reinforcement – how wearing a face covering helps to stop the spread of coronavirus and keep people well.
  • Are they anxious it will stop them breathing? Offer reassurance and show them that it won’t.
  • Is there a past experience that might make them fearful about wearing a mask (perhaps as a young child in the war)? Talk to them about it and try to find ways to reassure them.

If these measures still don’t work, and wearing the mask would cause the person distress, then you are within the law to give this as a reasonable excuse for the person not to cover their face.

While it is now compulsory in England for anyone aged 11 or over to wear a face covering on public transport, in NHS facilities, and public spaces indoors, the rules do not apply to a person with dementia if they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a face covering. A reasonable excuse could be:

  • They cannot physically put on or wear a face covering.
  • Wearing the face covering would cause them severe distress.
  • Someone with them needs to read their lips to communicate.
  • They need to remove the face covering temporarily to eat, drink or take medication. 

If someone such as a ticket inspector or shop assistant challenges the person for not covering their face, explain that they have dementia and can’t. Showing one of the Alzheimer’s Society helpcards, or a hidden disabilities sunflower lanyard (available at participating supermarkets) or exemption card is also a good idea.

You can also print your own exemption card at home or download one to your smartphone from the government’s guidance page.

For more useful information and ideas visit the Alzheimer’s Society blog

Source for this article : Alzheimer’s Society Blog 14/09/20