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This post first appeared on LinkedIn and the Alzheimer’s Association Washington Chapter blog

I am not a member of the medical profession, nor am I a scientist who can opine on the inner make-up of the COVID-19 virus. I am a leader in the business resilience industry, with an emphasis on the areas of risk management, emergency response and business continuity. Even so, I am not writing solely to any of those perspectives. I am writing as a person with a loved one who has dementia. A loved one who, while living through this world event where the mantra is “we’re in this together,” cannot fully connect to this theme. The message just does not resonate with them in the way that it resonates with others. 

The reality is that this “new normal” is not normal at all for them. This new normal takes away structures they have become accustomed to, structures they’ve needed to continue to hold on to. Good, bad or indifferent, the structure of “today” was what helped them through the chaos and inconsistent flashes of “yesterday.” 

With the uncertainty that is, I am finding that there are ways to help: ways to help which align with my profession, ways that help me to maintain during this time and ways that help me to help them. My three ways are: 

Collaboration and connection
We cannot do this alone and we should not do this alone. Having too much to carry leads to stress, especially during this time. An actual slow down, in order to speed up, is what is needed. Anything else is not healthy or productive. Help each other carry the load. Spend more time on the phone with them, video conferencing, talking and sharing the memories that are clear for them. I’ve found out so much that I didn’t know from days gone by, just by listening and connecting.

We have to find the areas where we can celebrate the wins. This is critical! If we cannot see progress, discouragement quickly ensues. This leads to nowhere fast. One win that I found just today goes back to technology. My loved one is used to going to church every Sunday, without fail. With COVID-19 and shelter in place, this is just not possible at this time. Win: a new laptop to the rescue! Access to live streaming of the home church services. It may seem like a small win, but the calm that this offers is immeasurable. 

Where you can find normalcy, hold on to it and drive that continuity. Find a link that will assist in mitigating the reaction or emotional state of today’s pandemic, to that of managing the response, based on the plans and processes previously developed. My loved one has always been used to assisting others. Given the condition, this has been difficult, but they find a way. The phone gets a workout! They check on people to make sure that they are okay. That is their Modus Operandi (M.O.) When possible, they do their best to do what is natural for them, what is normal for them, helping guide others in the midst of challenge. 

Shelters in Places of the Mind: COVID-19, dementia, and my “loved one”… my dad.


Michele L. Turner

Michele L. Turner, daughter. ... Turner, is head of global business resiliency at Amazon. Turner has more than 25 years of experience as an enterprise risk management leader, with expertise in governance, compliance and business continuity management. Reputation for building successful technical and business process teams. Exceptional communicator with both operational experience and executive presence to collaborate, and exceed goals, achieving needed results.

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