Kas Hilton, Lithgow Dementia Support Contributor on COVID-19 Challenges | Lithgow Mercury

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COVID-19 has brought more complexity to those caring for and living with dementia, as social isolation takes its toll. With Dementia Action Week coming next week starting Monday 21 September, Lithgow Mercury spoke with Kas Hilton, Dementia Care Officer, about the challenges Lithgow residents have been facing. “We have a high percentage of people over the age of 65 who are in the age group of dementia who are likely really feeling social isolation with COVID-19,” he said. As an assistant to Jeff Thurlow, Ms. Hilton said that to get her social interaction, they walked up and down Main Street. “He’s such an outgoing person, so we walk down Main Street so he can stop and have a chat with people,” she said. According to Ms. Hilton, social isolation has had a huge impact on people. “Jeff was lucky that his partner worked from home and Sebastian’s return to work is likely to be quite challenging,” he said. “But they have a really good network of people, so I have illicit ideas from them and I try.” Ms. Hilton said the restrictions have now eased the Dementia Alliance Group has been able to start over. “It is not a for-profit group and we only seek to support those who care and care for someone living with dementia,” he said. The group’s original meeting place was the Lithgow Library, but they had to find a new place to meet. READ MORE: “The Lithgow Club allowed us to use their meeting room, which was great,” he said. The group adheres to the limit of 10 people per social meeting. “Most people have understood that we are trying to keep meetings only for those living with dementia and their caregivers”, “Before we would have made an exception to anyone who wanted to come, but now we have to put a limit.” Ms. Hilton said she tried to keep in touch with some of the older members of the alliance by making phone calls and writing letters. “I play and make sure they are okay and let them know about the next meeting,” he said. “You really have to think about different communication strategies and channels because not everyone has a mobile phone or an email address.” Being a tech pro, Kas understands that this is not the case for everyone. “In one of our meetings I talked about Zoom, but it’s not for everyone and I got a huge no thanks, and that face to face is the way to go,” he said. Ms. Hilton said she’s considered having more regular meetings for people who can’t make it or there’s not enough space for everyone. “I also made individual recoveries, which I really like, because there is a personal approach,” he said. Ms. Hilton said it is fortunate that Lithgow has been a bit far from the COVID-19 situation. “I’ve seen it bring out the best in people, people checking in with their elderly neighbors on the street,” he said. Ms. Hilton said job loss due to COVID-19 can cause a lot of personal struggles. “It’s the erosion of independence, if someone with dementia can’t drive and doesn’t have a job, that’s really the last bit of independence gone,” he said. “They really feel like they don’t have a purpose.” But people need to remember to make time for people who also care for those living with dementia. “I have a lot of respect for them, I have been a caregiver for my mother and although it was difficult, it is not as difficult as caring for someone with early onset dementia,” she said. “The amount of emotional trauma and potential life changes, if someone has early-onset dementia by the time they’re 50, that’s 20-30 years of care for them.” Ms. Hilton said that although the group can’t do anything for this year’s Dementia Week, they hope everyone will continue to monitor people who need it. If you wish to contact Kas Hilton, you can call her on 0428 610959 or send an email to kashilton1@gmail.com

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