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Sean Mackell, a member of the Irish Dementia Working Group, shares his experiences of the COVID-19 situation

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Memo to Self:Do not move to a different country during a global pandemic, especially if you are living with dementia.

It all started well. We were living in the Republic of Ireland and decided to move a few kilometres further north to Northern Ireland so that we would be closer to family as my dementia progressed. We chose a house about 15 minutes’ drive from the Irish ‘border’ and we moved to a different country. And then the pandemic occurred!

The government of the Republic of Ireland took a very tough position on how to combat the virus. On 12 March they began by closing schools, encouraging as many people as possible to work from home, asking people to exercise social distancing and to stay at home as much as possible, as well as advising people to wash their hands and implement other hygiene protocols to help stop spreading the infection.

As a family, we decided to follow the more stringent advice of the Republic of Ireland. In short, we have been on lockdown in our new home since 13 March, plenty of time to hang our pictures, start a garden and sort out the right places for our furniture. We have had a few visits from relatives to welcome us into our new home. They stood in the mud of the new front garden and shouted encouragement to us and left presents on the front doorstep.

I have also been using the internet and through the delights of virtual networking platforms, I have been able to participate in meetings of the Irish Dementia Working Group (IDWG). This new concept of virtual meetings has also enabled me to gather up all my children from across the four corners of Ireland to take part in a family quiz. My youngest daughter was the winner. She was delighted. I was stunned! I also meet my friends virtually for our weekly “seisiún”, an Irish sing song. We just recently gathered together to sing beautiful songs by the great John Prine, who sadly passed away last week with the COVID-19 virus.

Like everyone else, I also have bad days but I work very hard not to become low in spirits. I try to stay positive and take heart that things are not too bad for me. I am determined to make the best of what I have for as long as I can. The IDWG is supported by The Alzheimer Society of Ireland.