Family Caregivers During a Pandemic

Caregiving During a Pandemic

Family Caregivers Chris and Maria Ward have been long-distance caregivers for Chris’ sister since March of 2016. They talked to us about the challenges of keeping her safe while combating isolation over the last year.

Every caregiving situation is different. Please tell us some more about your role as family caregivers.

Chris: We used to travel the 1,000-mile round trip to visit my sister at least once a month, until it became clear that she could no longer live alone. The rotation of hired caregivers became confusing and she eventually agreed she needed more help. We moved her to a care setting a little closer to our family in Northern California over the Fourth of July holiday. 

Can you share more about how things have changed over the last year, and what impact the pandemic has had on your family?

Chris: My sister went from being a hard-working, successful businessperson to someone who could not find her way home from the mall in a relatively short period. The onset of the pandemic underscored the loneliness and confusion she was experiencing and the need for a higher level of care, albeit at the risk of losing her independence. We were no longer a bridge to resources and an antidote to loneliness; we became responsible for her safety and wellbeing.  

How have you responded to the changes?

Maria: We used to be able to visit in person and arrange for other friends and family members to check-in. Since the move to residential care, our priorities are to make sure she is fed and safe. We have to address the confusion that has set in since the move, and that can be challenging.

She struggled to adapt to her new home and was uncertain where she was for many weeks after moving. We have been able to arrange some limited social interaction for her, but we are not able to visit or connect other than by phone. We are in regular contact with the care staff and, for the time being, we can only advocate, communicate and hope things will improve enough for us to be together in person before too long.

We maintain the things that help, such as family traditions, spiritual connections and changing up the limited variety of activities. Even a weekly manicure can help lift her spirits.

Which programs and services offered by the Alzheimer’s Association® have you accessed over the last year? How have they helped you as caregivers?

Maria: We participate in a monthly support group and have found help, ideas, tips and tricks from others who are also caring for loved ones from a distance and have “been there.” The connection has been especially meaningful because we can share our experiences openly and in a safe environment.

We meet by Zoom but we can see each other’s faces and have a real conversation. We have also attended online education classes and made use of resources such as tips on choosing care providers and help for caregivers during Covid-19.

What would you like other caregivers to know?

Maria: We would encourage caregivers to contact the Alzheimer’s Association and take advantage of their free programs. Then do what they can to develop a relationship with the staff who care for their loved ones, so they understand more about who they are. Learn about them, connect with them, play games, provide companionship, engage other family members and think of creative ways to help overcome the isolation. That is the hardest part.

By Niki Rubarth, Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association provides care, support and education to all those affected by Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Contact us at 775.786.8061 or at to learn more.

For Alzheimer’s Association’s support groups, visit:

Click here for more resources on other support groups. You can also call the Community Foundation at 775-333-5499.

For more information on Alzheimer’s Association’s support groups and education classes, see below.

For more information on Alzheimer’s Association’s Education Classes, click here.

Alzheimer’s Association’s Support Groups for March

Reno Adult Children Caregiver Support Group – MEETING BY ZOOM AND TELEPHONE

Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Time: 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM PDT

Delivery Method: Phone/Webinar

To register, click here.

Reno Spousal Caregiver Support Group – MEETING BY ZOOM AND TELEPHONE

Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM PDT

Delivery Method: Phone/Webinar

To register, click here.

Renown Caregiver Support Group – MEETING BY ZOOM AND TELEPHONE

Date: Friday, March 19, 2021

Time: 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM PDT

Delivery Method: Phone/Webinar

To register, click here.