Responding to the Needs of Persons Living With Dementia and Their Caregivers During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons From the Care Ecosystem
Innov Aging. 2022 Feb 26;6(2):igac007. doi: 10.1093/geroni/igac007. eCollection 2022.
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic created challenges for persons with dementia, their caregivers, and programs that support them. The Care Ecosystem (CE) is a model of dementia care designed to support people with dementia and their family caregiver dyads through ongoing contact with a care team navigator (CTN) and an expert clinical team. CTNs provide support, education, and resources and help dyads manage dementia-related concerns as they evolve over the course of the disease. We aimed to understand how the CE responded to the needs of dyads during the initial 3 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We conducted a survey and qualitative interviews with staff members from 4 established CE programs located in 4 different states to explore (a) challenges dyads voiced during the pandemic, (b) CE staff approaches to addressing the needs of dyads, and (c) programmatic challenges faced and lessons learned.
FINDINGS: Nine staff members from 4 CE programs with an active collective caseload of 379 dyads were interviewed. Themes were identified that included dyad concerns regarding fear of illness, changing attitudes toward long-term care, decreased availability of services and resources, and impacts on patient and caregiver health and well-being. Programmatic challenges included maintaining effective communication with dyads and program staff, technological readiness, workflow restructuring, and program sustainability.
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Approaches in supporting people with dementia and their caregivers should demonstrate flexibility, responsivity, and creativity, and these findings provide insight for understanding how dementia care programs can be positioned to offer continuous support for this vulnerable population.