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Dementia patients confined at the intersection of routine therapeutic activities and violation of Covid-19 containment measures

By Stephen Macharia

Today, Azibeta Likhaya, 81, does not understand why she cannot embrace, shake hands or get physically close to family members at her home in Roasterman Village, Kakamega County even as Covid-19 infections upsurge in Kenya.

She lives with comorbidities; Dementia a syndrome characterized by a decline in memory, language and ability to perform daily activities; Arthritis which is a chronic disabling condition affecting body joints, muscles plus connective tissues; and Hypertension, an illness that subjects blood vessels to persistently raised pressure.

However, Azibeta’s dementia syndrome is what worries the family as cases of Covid-19 spread across the country.

Oblivious of her susceptibility to contracting Covid-19, Azibeta, now living under stricter confinement measures her family imposed since Kenya recorded the first Covid-19 case in mid-March, currently manifests forms of aggression towards regaining lost reassuring habits: visiting neighbours; greeting people; and freedom from family surveillance.

The family is now in a rattrap when it comes to handling her situation amid rising Covid-19 infections, her son and caregiver Mr. Wyclif Likhaya, admits. “Granting her freedom to move around increases her exposure to Covid-19 but we understand excessive restrictions may end up upsetting her mental well-being.”

Worse still, she cannot wear a facemask for long before throwing it away for making her “feel uncomfortable”.

In Roasterman Village, located four kilometers from Kakamega town, residents live in palpable fear of Covid-19 infections. A section of the village serves as the town dump site where all forms of waste, including used facemasks and medical waste, litter the surface. The dumpsite is less than two kilometers from Azibeta’s home.

Mr. Likhaya, a graduate in Social Work who also serves as a volunteer caregiver for two other neighbours living with chronic illnesses, knows her mum’s condition requires “careful handling”.

Outside the home compound, the family discerns, Azibeta cannot consistently observe Covid-19 preventive measures enforced by the government, setting her up for arrest by authorities.

“Mum keeps asking why people do not show her appreciation by …


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