People are urged to be mindful and kind towards people with dementia who might forget to maintain social distancing when out walking.
The Alzheimer Society of Ireland's dementia advisor, Maeve Montgomery, said one in ten people with dementia is under 65 years.
“Not everyone with dementia is over 70 and they may not be cocooning. They might be out for a walk, just like you and me,” she said.
Ms Montgomery made a short video to remind people to think twice if someone walks into their space.
“Smile, Step Back, Continue on your walk”- Our Dementia Adviser Maeve Montgomery has an important message about supporting people living with dementia during #COVID19 #DementiaSupports pic.twitter.com/SCBrzOdJub— The Alzheimer Society of Ireland (@alzheimersocirl) April 1, 2020
“I made the video because I was afraid there was going to be an incident. Thankfully, that has not happened,” she said.
But I am concerned that people might react badly to someone with dementia walking up to them.
Ms Montgomery said it is a challenging time for everyone.
She got a call from the daughter of a person with dementia who was upset because someone had shouted at them when they walked passed a line in a supermarket.
The family carer became afraid that the situation could escalate because people with dementia can become agitated and fearful and mirror the other person's behaviour.
“If we don't advise people about how they should respond to people with dementia, there could an incident," Ms Montgomery warned.
If somebody walks up to you don't assume that they are being ignorant. Assume there is some reason why they are doing it. Just smile, stay calm, step back and keep walking.
Ms Montgomery said socialisation is very important for people with dementia and now they are being told that they could not go out and talk to people.
“This is huge change to their routine which is very important for them.”
The 2016 Irish census put the number of people with dementia at 55,000. About 11,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year; that is about 30 a day.
The ASI has found that a lack of services because of the Covid-19 health crisis was leading to a deterioration in the health of people with dementia.
More than three-quarters (77%) of family carers said they need practical and emotional supports and are afraid they will get sick and not be able to care for loved ones.
The ASI continues to support people online or on the phone which is open six days a week.
Its national helpline number is 1800 341 341 and the society can also be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via live chat at www.alzheimer.ie.