COVID-19 and Living with Dementia

Twenty-seven years ago, this month, my mother died of congestive heart failure. I thought my father was joking when he called me with the news on April Fools’ Day.

Healthcare professionals observed dementia-like symptoms in my father three years after he became a widower. Married at age 40, he and my mother shared 42 years of married life.

COVID-19 and Dementia: Habitual Good Hygiene for LIFE

My father had to be reminded to wash his hands. He caught the flu and his fever spiked to 104. At age 86, he would have been a COVID-19 fatality since Alzheimer’s challenged him to understand the need for cleanliness.

Long before, while serving as a machinist at two factories, he was fastidious about hygiene. He bathed twice daily. He was well-groomed and dressed immaculately, thanks to my mother washing and ironing his clothes each week.

While his children (two girls and one boy) were busy with their schooling, his spoke with tempered reason. “Keep your head about you.” This is what he often said when high drama accompanied his children’s lives.

As meticulous as he was about cleanliness before and after work, during the weekends, he didn’t wash his hands enough. My mother would continually remind him to wash his hands. He’d repair something or change car oil and then grab a refreshing cold slice of freshly cut watermelon. Even after wiping the oil off his hands, black (used) car oil coated the rinds.

NOT washing hands?

“What’s a little germ?” he’d quip.

Yet, he lived till age 90 while my poor stressed-out mother, who always washed her hands, lived till her 72nd. Both have been gone a long time.

Today, more than ever, we need to return to good hygiene habits – the ones we learned from those old and awkward-to-view black-and-white films during the 1950s and 1960s. It’s true, we survived drinking out of a garden hose and eating freshly picked unwashed produce, but times were different then. There were 70% fewer humans in the world. We didn’t travel as much across borders sharing life-changing experiences and spreading viruses.

Brenda Avadian wearing Michelle Randol Peace's giraffe face mask

Healthy Hygiene Habits

  1. Wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.
    Besides your hands, focus on cleaning each of your fingers and fingernails like a surgeon.
  2. Wash your face with soap after you’ve been outdoors.
    You never know how far winds carry a virus lodged in your eyebrow that you’ll scratch before touching your eye or nose.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask or scarf.
    This not only prevents the virus from reaching the open areas of your face, but also reminds you not to touch your mouth and nose.

Goodness in Our Time of Crisis

Our stay-at-home guidance has led to cleaner air around the world.

Turtles are nesting on empty beaches once crowded with people.

Heroes (essential workers) are making sure we have food to eat.

Heroes are caring for us when we grow ill.

Some of us are even learning to reconnect with family in person; especially, when the Internet is not working. Otherwise, we’re gaining skills in virtual (video) conferencing.

We’re learning to use our kitchens. We’re cooking our own meals again.

Our homes may still be messy but they are more sanitary.

Friends we have met on airplanes send us gifts from afar. Michelle Randol Peace from Texas surprised me with a gift of a FUN giraffe face mask that I wore while visiting the poppy fields in the High Desert of Southern California.

Michelle Peace's giraffe face mask mailed to Brenda Avadian

I feel fortunate that my parents do not have to live through this pandemic. My father died eight years after my mother, in early 2001. He just missed our nation’s life-changing tragedy on September 11.

Through their teachings, their legacies live on.

While some lose their minds and others act strangely, I return to my father’s advice: Keep your head about you.

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