Practical, day-to-day recommendations of what to do in this situation, developed between Dementia Matters in Powys, the Centre for Innovative Ageing at Swansea University and inspired by the Matia Fundazioa in the Basque Country.
Try to keep to the usual schedule, activities and breaks from day to day. As far as possible, keep the familiar going, and be kind to yourself – you're doing the best that you can. Remember, this situation will pass.
Walk inside, stretch gently, move even a few steps. If you have a garden, it's probably more important than ever to sit or exercise outside when you can, catch some sun when it's out. There's quite a lot of evidence that early morning light may help your night-time sleep, so if you can spend time out in the morning sunlight, all the better.
It may feel good to get involved in things like clapping for the NHS, any events such as sing-a-longs that are happening online, or any other community actions that might come up. Try some new creative activities together – colouring can be therapeutic, for example. Use your network of family, friends to help get online for things, and skill share if you can help others.
Make sure you speak with your surgery so you don't run out of medication. More than ever, it's probably better to plan ahead for things, and make sure you keep up with pharmacy services locally that can help deliver. This is especially true if you live in a rural area – make sure you know about what's available. Local community groups, befriending schemes, telephone buddies may be able to help you with what you need and with things like your food shopping: there are many such schemes now springing up to help. Don't forget to include something special on the menu from time to time, and treat yourself to a takeaway – many small cafes, businesses and community groups are offering hot food to your doorstep.
Try to respond with simple, reassuring and practical messages, such as "let's go and have a cup of tea" or "let's listen to our favourite music". There is no doubt that anxieties will heighten over the weeks to come, so try and concentrate on the small routines and rituals which can relax you both. Let go of the things you can't control, like predicting what will happen, focus on the things you can do – like finding fun things to do at home.
By all means, if possible, watch a film on TV or YouTube, listen to entertainment programmes on the radio, communicate with people you know on the phone/computer/tablet, but maybe turn off the news at some point if it makes you anxious. You could also make more of a habit of reading, even reading a story or novel aloud. Audiobooks are another option – libraries have these for free online. All these things can help you enjoy time together.
Now's the time to create that playlist if you haven't already, to remember the songs that you both like and, if possible, dance, dance and dance some more. It will serve as a good physical exercise and can help to lift the mood.
Help to create a playlist: www.playlistforlife.org.uk
Looking out onto the world helps maintain contact to it. Wave at people if they pass by, or if you have a view of a garden or nice scenery, make time to sit and look every day. Play some Bird Bingo, notice the season. In this difficult period, why not add a rainbow to your window.
If there's two of you, give yourselves a hug, have a cwtch – it's more important than ever. Share jokes, organise a virtual cwtch if you can!
Talk to friends, share with other carers, set aside some time for yourself and ask for help if you need it. Your well-being guarantees that of the person you care for. Be kind to yourself, you're doing the best you can. However, if you can, plan for a crisis: it might help to talk with people outside your usual group, or you may need some additional support – find out how to do this, write it all down and keep a list handy of organisations or people who can help, just in case.
Planning for a crisis: www.mind.org.uk/information-support