The combination of hearing loss and dementia can present a particular challenge for people living with dementia and their families. I know, my Mother had both! This guest post will help, so read on…..
Caring for a person with dementia can be both rewarding and challenging. The needs of the person may often come before your own, and finding solutions to a variety of issues can be difficult, especially if they aren’t always willing or able to assist.
Some of the more common symptoms of dementia that you might already be familiar with dealing with include memory loss, confusion and a decline in skills needed for everyday living – often including communication.
Communication is a central issue. The person may have problems finding the right words or signs and this might cause frustration. In common with other older people, many people living with dementia also have hearing loss. The difficulties which are part of dementia are made much worse when the person cannot hear properly. But there are things we can do to help, including:
- Minimise background noise: TVs / radios can be turned off when not being used
- Get their attention before you start speaking
- Making sure they have clean, up-to-date spectacles as they will be depending more on vision
- Get onto the same level so they are not having to look up or down
- Do not shout or raise your voice. This will distort your speech making it more difficult to understand
- Speak a little more slowly than usual
- If they are comfortable with reading, you can also try writing down your message
Helping people with dementia to use hearing aids
In addition to the points above, a hearing aid can be used by people living with dementia and hearing loss. Studies show that hearing aids may help increase memory and reduce anxiety, and will naturally increase social interaction if they can listen and communicate more easily.
There are many different styles of hearing aids. The two main categories are ITE (in the ear) and BTE (behind the ear). As a general rule of thumb, the larger the hearing aid the more powerful it is. It’s worth remembering that smaller hearing aids have smaller batteries, which could be difficult for people with poor dexterity.
There are some points to consider. A hearing aid has to be switched on for it to work – forgetting this is a common mistake for people living with dementia. Switching it off at night is important for conserving batteries, again, something that can be forgotten. It can also be an issue for aids to be misplaced by the person throughout the day, or by the carer whilst dressing them for example, but fortunately there are a huge variety of aids to choose from which could help to minimise a number of these issues. A specialist hearing aid dispenser will be able to best advise you of the most appropriate aid for the individual and can offer custom-made devices that will fit comfortably
The following ideas may also help:
- Encourage the person to try using it for very short periods initially, and then gradually extend them.
- Encourage them to begin using their aid in quiet, calm and familiar surroundings. Bear in mind that things will sound very different to the person at first – this may cause distress or disorientation – reassurance will be necessary.
- For some, providing simple written or pictorial information about the aid for the person to refer to may be helpful so they feel more in control of their device.
For impartial information on hearing aid devices speak to YourHearing.co.uk today. As they are totally independent, they have no vested interest in any brand, make or retailer, and the guidance you receive is completely tailored to your individual needs. Call their expert team today on freephone 0800 567 7621 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week).
Caring for someone with dementia is a big responsibility and a 24/7 commitment. Carers can never truly relax, but with support and help from their communities, from businesses and from other people, those with dementia and those that look after them can have a slightly easier time.
But is the world adapting to people with dementia? Are more and more people learning what dementia is, what it means for those with dementia and how they can help?
The Evolution of Care
Person-centred care is one of the keys to helping people with dementia. Each person with dementia has different needs and requirements, but often the key to providing the best care is to help an individual to feel comfortable with their own memories.
Often, those with dementia remember distant memories as though they’re present-day memories. Correcting someone could cause confusion, worry and upset. Dementia sufferers can enjoy reminiscing about times gone by, and often connecting over old memories is the best way for relatives to experience a positive meeting with a loved one.
As carers understand more about person-centred care, things are changing worldwide. Hogewey near Amsterdam is the ‘dementia village’, where residents live in themed houses and can visit the shops and go about their daily lives with no awareness that they’re actually in a large care home complex with their neighbours being other dementia sufferers and the shopkeepers being their carers.
As technologies advance, more and more possibilities are opening up for people with dementia. Apps on tablet computers can help those with dementia to train their memory, or can provide memory triggers that encourage discussion. Touchscreen devices are intuitive to use, with no steep learning curve, making them ideal for people with dementia.
In complete contrast, Alzheimer’s Research UK is using technology to instead increase awareness for those WITHOUT dementia, helping more and more people to understand what it means to have the condition. Their FaceDementia app describes the symptoms of dementia using the user’s Facebook profile information.
Assistive technologies for dementia sufferers also include GPS devices and alarms, though sometimes cue cards and post-it notes are even better living aids.
Conditions such as dementia are becoming increasingly recognised and understood. As awareness increases, those with dementia and those looking after them will find a more understanding world around them.
The average person on the street now understands the symptoms of dementia, at least in a basic way. That wasn’t always the case. Medical professionals are also encouraged to recognise the signs and symptoms of dementia and to diagnose it properly so that the correct help, support and financial assistance (where relevant) can be provided.
Living with dementia isn’t easy. Living with someone that has dementia will always be difficult, stressful and emotional. However with more awareness, the latest technologies and an increasing number of dementia-friendly care services things are getting a little bit easier. And, with an increasing number of ‘Dementia Friends’ across the UK, those caring for someone with dementia will find more people to turn to in time.
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Christmas is an important time for families – a time to catch-up with relatives’ news, have fun, build new memories and reaffirm bonds. But how do you do that when a key member of the family has problems with communication and memory? Maizie Mears-Owens, Care UK’s head of dementia services, has found a new way to gently lead loved ones living with dementia into the festive season and increase their wellbeing. Here she explains how to make the 10 Boxes of Christmas.
Throughout Care UK’s 114 care homes we use memory boxes to engage people. We fill them with personalised items that mean something to them. It may involve items from their hobbies, careers or sports memorabilia but for Christmas I am suggesting families try an Advent style approach, with 10 boxes containing single items that will trigger memories of Christmas. Not only will they unlock memories but they will also prepare your loved-one for what will be happening in the home over the holidays.
Have fun making the boxes. You can use any size or shape, you can decorate them with themes or wrapping paper or Christmas cards and you can get the younger members of your family to join in.
Box 1 Smell is one of the most powerful prompts to memory and Christmas is packed with very distinctive smells. You can include a stick of cinnamon, a jar of all spice and many shops sell little bottles containing a liquid that smells of pine for people who have artificial trees. Sit down with your relative and talk about the scents and the memories they invoke
Box 2 Many homes, mine included, have a silver sixpence that has been handed down over the years to include in Christmas puddings. If you don’t have one they are easy to find in bric-a-brac shops and flea markets. The coin has a number of benefits to memory. Firstly you can talk about when they were young – did they ever get the sixpence? You can talk about years when they made the puddings and you can also talk about the year the coin was made: It may be worth doing a little bit of homework in advance on what happened nationally that year to prompt the start of the conversation.
Box 3 Now we take fresh and exotic fruit for granted, but a clementine or satsuma when our loved ones were young was a rare treat. For many people the smell and taste of a satsuma encapsulates Christmas. I have often put one in my parents’ stockings because when I was young we always laughed about what they had in their stockings, a satsuma being a prized item. Get them to rub it between their hands and feel the texture and to smell the skin in the wonderful moment you peel one. They will also enjoy the taste and the memories it brings.
Box 4 Looking around the shops, and online at sites like eBay there are lots of wonderful Christmas baubles and vintage decorations around this year. If you are not fortunate enough to have your original Christmas decorations, think about buying one of the modern replicas for the box. Talk with your loved-one about when you used to decorate the tree together and ask them about trees and decorations when they were young.
Box 5 – Have a look through your photo collection and theirs. Are there any from Christmas past? If you have visitors coming to the house for Christmas, are there any that include them so that you can start preparing your loved one for who is coming? You can add tinsel to the box. Tinsel has the added advantage of being very tactile, which is great for people with dementia. Try and include a really full length and encourage them to hold it and pull it through their hands.
Box 6 – The gift of music. Dig out one of your CDs of Christmas song or carols. You can have a sing along together or just sit and listen. Carols often take people further back as they remember singing them in school or church. For those who were grown up in the 1960s and 1970s the sounds of Phil Spector or Slade and Wizzard will bring back memories of family parties and work Christmas events.
Box 7 – Nothing sums up Christmas like a Nativity figure. Do you have a Nativity set that the family has used for many years? Put just one figure in the box – one you feel will particularly appeal to your loved one. It may be a person, an animal or the crib – it doesn’t matter as long as it appeals to them. Chat about Christmases when you have had a Nativity set. Did you ever have a large one in your church? Did they have a village one when they were young? Do they remember your school Nativity? Do they remember taking part in one? What is their favourite part of the Christmas story?
Box 8 – A Christmas cracker can bring fun. You can find inexpensive make-your-own kits in hobby shops and supermarkets. Is there something you can put in that would make them smile? You can use the cracker to reminisce about Christmas lunches past and also to discuss what will be happening this year and to ask them for their ideas.
Box 9 – Christmas paper and ribbons can be placed in box nine and, depending where your relative is in their pathway, you can either sit together and wrap a present, which will make them feel involved both at the time and when the gift is given, or you can get them to feel the paper and scrunch it up while you talk about opening parcels. You can laugh about the fun you have had in the past trying to wrap up bicycles or tennis rackets.
Box 10 – Finally what could be nicer that sitting down together with a mince pie? That morning, box up a piece of whatever cake symbolises Christmas to your family. Form some it is Stollen, for others Tunis cake or Dundee cake. Sit down with a cup of tea and have a chat about what cake to choose this year, and what they had in Christmases past. Did they make it with you? Did they make it with their mum? How did they manage during the years of rationing?
The boxes can contain whatever you want in whatever order – the important thing is that you share the experience and that the items mean something to your loved one. Encourage them to take in the smells and textures and do the same yourself – these boxes will help you to create your own memories for the future.
Whether you are visiting a loved living with dementia in their own home or in a care home, I hope that my idea of 10 Boxes of Christmas will help you to have enjoyable and helpful conversations that bring the whole family together this December.
And may I wish you a very happy and peaceful Christmas.
Dementia covers a group of symptoms such as memory problems, decreasing ability to think or reason and difficulty communicating.
People with Dementia often find it hard to let you know how they feel. They often become confused, anxious and sometimes frightened. Finding it hard to recognise people. However, feelings remain and visits can stimulate warm feelings and be comforting.
Here are some things you can do to help when you visit someone with Dementia
- Wear something bright and colourful and approach them from the front, don’t be tempted to tap them on the shoulder or approach them from behind.
- Introduce yourself with an explanation of who you are
- Smile and make eye contact, sitting down next to them at their level
- Touch their hand or arm gently if appropriate
- Make sure you speak simply, one comment at a time
- Listen and give them time to answer or comment. Be patient.
- It is important to be positive and reassuring.
- Try to avoid questions or choices, try ‘A cup of tea?’ (not, tea or coffee?) Be Patient.
- Accept incorrect statements as they may be caused by memory loss or faulty logic. Acknowledge the emotions behind the words.
I find these tips very helpful. They were based on work undertaken by Dr. Jennifer Bute a retired GP who is living with early onset Alzheimer’s Dementia.
Over the years, desperate statements from medical research teams have made the world believe that once you show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, there is little you can do to about the condition. Not anymore because current research has revealed that there are several things a person living with early onset Alzheimer’s disease can do to slow progression of the disease. Here are six ways to slow down Alzheimer’s disease.
According to ARPF or (Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation) physical exercises minimizes the danger of developing this disease by fifty percent. Here are important tips that can help you get started and stick to your exercise plan:
• Do aerobic exercises five times a week for at least 30 min per day. Swimming, walking, laundry, gardening and cleaning all amount to exercise so long as their intensity increases your heart rate.
• Undertake balance and coordination exercises like yoga, Tai Chi, balance balls and balance discs
• Build muscles through lifting moderate weights and other forms of resistance training to pump up your brain.
• Hang on for more than 21 days without skipping daily exercise, as this will help turn exercising into a habit.
Over and above these benefits, exercising also helps you reduce stress, improve your memory, increase your energy levels and boost your mood.
Medical experts say that glial cells can be very helpful in removing toxins and debris that contribute to Alzheimer from the brain. This means you have to eat such foods as soy products, green tea, ginger, fatty fish and all forms of berries that inhibit properties that may keep these crucial cells from damage. Your brain, just like the rest of the body, needs a specific and proper diet to work well. You should therefore plan to eat a lot of healthy fats, fresh fruit, lean protein, and vegetables.
- Learn more about a Mediterranean diet and subscribe to it.
- Keep off from saturated fats and Trans fats.
- Maintain a diet that supports the health of your heart.
- Include lots of Omega 3 in your diet.
- Instead of taking three huge meals, break it down to four to six small ones across the day.
- Eat vegetables and fruits across the rainbow.
- Take some well-done steaming cups of tea every day.
People who challenge themselves to learn new things every now and then are less likely to become victims of Alzheimer’s disease. You should therefore make resolve to take up this challenge. Some things that you can do to stimulate your brain may include;
- Learning a sign language; learn foreign language; learn a musical instrument;
- Read a good book or informative newspaper articles
- Adopt a new hobby.
- You can also embark on the practice of memorization.
- Do riddles and puzzle games.
- Practice asking yourself the; Who? What? Where? When & Why? questions from you own experiences on a daily basis
- Do unusual things like eating with your less dominant hand etc.
On an average, you are supposed to take at least 8 hours of sound sleep every night. This is because the human brain needs consistent and proper sleep to be able to function to its required capacity. Lack of enough sleep will only leave you feeling tired, cranky and impaired in your thought process. To achieve this you therefore need to;
- Come up with an organized sleep timetable that is observed without compromise.
- Master the art of napping.
- Set the bedroom mood by keeping your bed exclusively for sex and sleep.
- Remove gadgets like computers or television from the bedroom.
- Come up with a bed time ritual to help you relax as you head on to catch sleep. This can include doing some easy stretches, taking a hot bath writing a journal or even dimming the lights.
- Tone down your inner chatter. Anxiety, stress and negative inner dialogue can easily rob you of sleep and keep you awake most of the night. When in this state, you can quieten it by getting out of bed and moving to the next room where you can relax with an easy book for say 20 minute before you resume.
Owing to the fast pace of modern life stress has become every man and woman’s nightmare. If unchecked, stress can shrink part of your brain better termed as the hippocampus. This negative development can hamper the growth of your nerve cells thereby increasing the risk of being afflicted by Alzheimer. To manage your stress levels you can do the following:
- Learn the art of breathing. Respond to your stress by taking three deep, abdominal breaths.
- Have an organized daily schedule of relaxation activities.
- Nourish your inner peace through observations like prayer, meditation, reflection and the like.
As senior social creatures, human beings cannot do well in isolation. Therefore living contrary to this social need will do much to expose you to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. To be socially active, you can do the following;
- Actively interact on social media.
- Join a social group or club.
- Sign up for group classes.
- Volunteer for community service.
- Know your neighbors well.
- Make several phone calls or email mutual friends on a regular basis.
- Visit parks, museums; go to movies or any other places that allow you unwind.
As mentioned earlier, Alzheimer’s disease is not a condition to dread anymore. Just observe these tips and you can slow down early onset Alzheimer’s Disease For more professional and detailed information simply apply for an EHIC card and reap the benefit of guidance from the real medical experts.
Alzheimer’s upsets memory, thought processes & speech; also behavioural changes such as agitation, confusion, distress, hallucinations and false beliefs.
We are born unable to do many things and have to learn them. In Alzheimer’s it appears people unlearn these things again, going back to earlier behaviours.
The Film ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ illustrates the unlearning of social inhibitions, which include what is acceptable to say, or what to do, or even being unable to use the bathroom or feed ones-self. (All of which is perfectly acceptable or even cute, in an infant!)
There may be physical reasons for the anxiety state such as infections (urinary tract infections are common in dementia), drug side effects, pain, hunger, thirst.
Feelings remain, even when facts are forgotten
So a happy occasion can be ‘spoilt’ by a sad farewell.
Plan ahead for:
Happy exit strategies – (for example say ‘I’m just going to the loo’)
Explanations for absent folk – (for eg say ‘‘remember he was often working)
Affirming moments – (such as ‘you always were good at jigsaws’)
Reasons to sit rather than follow around – (tell me ‘we don’t want you to conk out’)
Calling someone by the wrong name means that the person knows you are important to them, even though they do not remember exactly who you are. Not knowing your name might mean at that particular time that they have no idea who you are, so tell them.
Situations that can precipitate an anxiety attack:
- Unfamiliar Surroundings
- A task that is too complicated
- Difficulty in Communicating
1. Introduce yourself.
2. Don’t ask questions.
3. Don’t overwhelm them
4. Simplify or calm their environment.
5. Reassure, and show them what they should do.
6. Remove or reduce stress triggers –
- Noise – turn music down or off
- Lighting – switch more lights on or off
- Too many people – take them to a quieter place
7. Change to a more familiar activity or make a cup of tea. Perhaps remove them from the situation and take them for a walk or a car ride.
8. Music can calm and reassure.
9. Talk about hobbies, passions, or subjects that meant a great deal to them earlier in their life.
10. Videos or pictures of events or outings.
11. They might not be able to distinguish dreams from reality. Don’t laugh or call them a liar.
This post is based on work undertaken by Dr. Jennifer Bute a retired GP who is living with the early onset Alzheimer’s Dementia