There are lots of resources from places such as Dementia UK that have some key FAQ’s that are helpful. NHS guidelines are also a valuable source of information. We have summarised some headline advice for you.
Gain consent. Before the vaccine is given, consent must be obtained from the person receiving it.
- If they are unable to give consent, then consent must be obtained via a ‘best interest’ decision (which is compliant with the Mental Capacity Act 2005). This is when someone is unable to make a decision for themselves, so the decision may have to be made for them.
- If you have registered Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Health and Welfare for the person with dementia, you can make health decisions on their behalf, including whether they should receive vaccinations. You must also take the person’s previous wishes or views into account.
- If there is no LPA for Health and Welfare in place, then healthcare professionals must make a decision in the person’s ‘best interests.’ This is based upon their previous wishes and decisions as well as close consultation with friends, family members or anyone else who knows the person with dementia closely.
Fully explain, be honest and respect the person’s independence
- It’s important that the person with dementia retains their independence and feels in control, as much as possible.
- Make sure you choose a time and place that suits them.
- A warm and friendly tone can help to relieve any nervousness that the person with dementia may have about receiving the vaccine.
Choose your timing carefully
- Be patient. Those with dementia can need more time to do and understand things than others.
- If the person is experiencing heightened anxiety or distress, rebook the vaccine at a different time and think about how you can support them next time.
When the vaccine is given
- Find out if you can support the person with dementia, by accompanying them to have their injection. This will depend on the particular care setting and the policies they have in place.
- Make suggestions as to how to support the person with dementia, for example asking if the vaccinator can introduce themselves, especially if they are wearing a mask or visor, and reminders that the vaccine is given by an injection in their arm.
- Consider distraction techniques whilst the injection is being administered by the health care professional; this can be conversation, music, a reassuring touch or hand massage. Getting them to hold a favourite item can also bring comfort.
After the vaccine
- Reassure the person with dementia after the vaccine, whilst being mindful of your tone and body language.
- You could offer a drink afterwards, or do a favourite activity of theirs, or rest if they are feeling tired.
- Check to see how they are feeling as it might have been a tiring time for them as well as for any physical side effects
Potential Side effects of the Vaccine
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. Although you should get good protection from the first dose, having the second dose is very important.
Very common side effects include:
- A painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1-2 days after the vaccine.
- Feeling tired headache general aches, or mild flu-like symptoms
Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection. You can rest and take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) to help you feel better.
Are you worried about whether your loved one has Dementia or not?
It’s important to bear in mind that if a person’s behaviour has changed suddenly, then there is usually a reason for that. It could be the result of delirium, caused by an infection or another physical illness (unrelated to coronavirus). In this circumstance, please make an appointment with the GP, who may consult with you over the phone or by video call. They can prescribe antibiotics or other medication, if necessary. Some pharmacies are offering delivery services.