The pandemic has been ruthless for most Canadians, but adapting to new behaviors and rules has been especially difficult for people with cognitive challenges.
“At first it felt like a big lump fell on top of me,” Kate Boziac said, describing her struggle to absorb all the safety precautions around COVID-19. “Oh my God, remember this, remember this. Then I just said take one step at a time.”
Boziac’s life changed forever in 1994 after a heart attack left her with brain damage. The former retail manager has had to overcome the everlasting memory and mobility challenges.
The 56-year-old now resides in a self-contained living facility in downtown Toronto. Learning it and remembering to wear the mask, physical distance, and constantly washing her hands took some time to master it. Buziak admits that she still struggles with it.
He also mattered, Boziac said, “because I don’t want to die. That simple.”
I have to say to myself, well … at six feet, six feet. I always tell myself that. At home there are signs on the dinner table. So that’s fine, ”Boziac said. “But this is not an easy thing.”
Nor was it easy for the caregivers.
“I think what worries me most is that people are either unable to do it or not understand, and then afterwards [COVID-19] Heather McKay, a Toronto cotta manager who runs the facility where Buziak lives, said:
The community health nurse says she has so far managed to keep her four living facilities free of COVID, in part through patient and constant reminders to residents.
“People with cognitive challenges have difficulties with memory. So anything that is introduced to be new to them takes a lot of iteration,” said McKay.
People with acquired brain injury depend heavily on routine to thrive. McKay said the precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, along with other pandemic-related changes in daily patterns, have turned all that around.
“Monday I do this, Tuesday I do this, and.” [new things] So when someone gets used to getting up in the morning, brushing their teeth and walking out the door, there are now a number of extra steps. Like, do I have my mask on me? Do I turn it on properly? ”McKay said.
A lot of work to help people learn these extra steps is the responsibility of supportive care workers like Laverne Blair.
“I think it’s better now, but at first it was difficult for some of them to realize that you need to wear a mask, because that’s something that would help not only protect you, but someone else, your peers,” Blair said.
It took weeks, and in some cases months, but Blair said it was important to equip people with the skills they need to keep themselves and others safe.
“Knowing that agents are going to go out into the community and engage with all of the people was worrying. How will they cope with what’s out there? I mean, when you are on the inside, you can be more protective.
Inside the building where Buziak lives, a strip extends across the floor of the few common areas to remind residents to give space for each other. Signs are placed on the seats and walls of the dining area as a constant warning of distance.
Staff also tailored the memory prompts according to each client’s needs: some work best with visual cues, others with verbal reminders.
Buziak does better with visual cues, so a bright set of masks are now hung on a hook in her eye line right next to her door. She stops, leans on her walk, and picks one up before heading out.
“So I can’t forget them,” Boziac said. “Like, they’re everywhere. You have to put them in a place you see so you don’t forget it.”
Coronavirus has also taken a big role in Buziak’s social schedule. Its handicraft and cooking groups have been canceled due to the Coronavirus, and family visits have been severely restricted due to the pandemic.
“For a while I didn’t feel so lonely, but I was separated. Out of the loop, I didn’t know what was going on. It’s tough,” Boziac said.
To stave off loneliness, she is trying to learn another skill: magnification. Signing in and remembering every step to start the conversation can be a little tricky, but Boziac says it’s worth it.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “When I see my mom or my cousins, my heart hisses.”
It’s been an uphill struggle, but Boziac says her newfound skills to survive COVID-19 make her feel safe and confident enough to get out again and do simple tasks for herself.
It also left her wondering why some people did not follow the COVID-19 guidelines that they had to work so hard to master.
“When I leave I wash my hands and wear my mask and things like that. But I look around and I see people outside are not wearing a mask. That makes me wonder why people don’t wear a mask?” Boziac said.
“I want to say, wear a mask.” Seriously, this is not rocket science. “
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