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Healthcare for people with cognitive impairment during coronavirus

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) has developed new resources to help health organisations provide safe care for people with cognitive impairment during coronavirus (COVID-19). The resources explain that people with cognitive impairment may get frightened by staff wearing personal protective equipment, as well as find infection control instructions hard to follow. The person’s carers may also not be allowed to be with them because of visitor restrictions, which can make communication about treatment more difficult.

The two-page factsheet provides information about ways to provide safe care for people with cognitive impairment, including:

  • creating a care plan with the person early
  • working out who the support person is
  • helping the carer or support person to stay with them
  • connecting the family through video or telephone
  • finding out how to reduce their distress
  • trying to use ways to help the person calm down without medications first
  • finding out the cause of their behaviour, such as if they are in pain.

The easy-to-read poster provides a summary of information from the factsheet supported by images. It explains how staff wearing personal protective equipment and social distancing puts people with cognitive impairment at a higher risk of feeling disoriented and agitated. The poster illustrates four key points:

  1. Agree to goals of care – Talk about treatment options and preferences with the person or their decision-maker.
  2. Involve the carer – Ask the carer to be involved and find out how to reduce the person’s distress.
  3. Prevent delirium – Keep the person active, hydrated and focussed through meaningful activities. Try to avoid physical restraint.
  4. Treat appropriately – Find possible underlying causes and try to use other strategies before medication.

Original resource

ACSQHC website.

14 July 2020
Applies to all states