All posts in Dementia

The Importance of Mental Stimulation for People with Dementia

This guest post provides information about activities, games and excercises that provide stimulation for people living with dementia

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Caring for a Person with Dementia and Hearing Loss

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…..

Hearing loss

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

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:009_old_woman_smiling_optimised2

  • 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).

Is the World Adapting to Help People with Dementia?

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.

New Technologies

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.Digital-World-75-EB201113-1100x1120

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.

Increased Awareness

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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The 10 Boxes of Christmas For People Living With Dementia

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.General-DSCF0070-SWGM291013-400x400

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.

Person-Centred Care Home Search

As Ivy looked around her new room there was no way of knowing what was going on in her head. We had taken great care to make sure her new room looked the same as her old one. Photographs had been taken of her old room so it could be laid out the same and her ornaments arranged accordingly in her glass fronted cabinet. Her new room had been painted the same colour blue and a  new carpet had been laid, similar to her old one.

Ivy aged 85 had been living with dementia in a care home in West Sussex since her husband died five years ago. Her only son Paul had moved Ivy into the home before returning home to his family at the other side of the world, New Zealand.

Three years ago Ivy’s solicitor in West Sussex recommended Relative Matters to Paul and we have been monitoring his mothers health and well being ever since in addition to arranging for someone to take Ivy out for a drive and a meal out once a fortnight.

As time went on we became concerned about the quality of care Ivy was receiving and eventually, and in consultation with her family, decided that Ivy needed to move to another home. In the course of our assessment we identified that Ivy had a sister she hadn’t seen for years who still lived in Skegness where she had grown up. Thus the possibility of moving Ivy to a care home in Skegness presented itself and  our search began.iStock_000004762284Small

When a potentially suitable care home had been found we arranged to take Ivy for a weekend trial during which a tea visit was organised with her estranged sister. We made the 200-mile journey with Ivy, spent time assessing risks and most importantly, monitored her reaction to the new care environment and her sister. However, we needn’t have worried, Ivy was delighted to see  her sister and beloved ‘Skeggie’ again and it quickly became clear that we had got it right.

And so the move was arranged. We arranged for Ivy’s things to be taken to her new home the day before and her son and grandson flew over to help with the move. They arranged the room ready for Ivy’s arrival so it was ready when we arrived the following afternoon. By the time we left Ivy had reconnected with another resident she had made friends with on her trial visit.

As Ivy beamed up at us from her wheelchair we felt the warm glow of knowing we had made a difference to another person’s life.  We had reunited Ivy with her sister; in the area she held fond memories from her childhood. Job satisfaction doesn’t get much better than that!

Four Fantastic Ways Technology Can Support Your Elderly Relative

We often hear the term “golden years” used to refer to the time between retirement and when we leave this earth, yet many do not understand its meaning. For many, their final years can be a difficult period, fraught with illness, loneliness and general despair. It often falls into the hands of family members to look after and assist their elderly relatives during this time, which can be quite difficult if you’ve never before had to help take care of a loved one. We live in an amazing world these days: the combination of medicine and technology can mean that life is not just extended, but enhanced. If you are helping a loved one and want to keep them happier at home, then continue reading to find out about four ways that technology for older people can help maintain their independence.

MedMinder

It is quite rare to get to the end of your life without ever needing to take some form of medication along the way. Unfortunately, the ageing of our brains can hamper our ability to remember to take our medicine, which will only accelerate the process of deterioration. The Tabtime Medminder offers a solution for this problem, and revolves around a combination of technology for the elderly and smart medicine. The device in question is a pill dispenser, which can ensure that your loved one takes his or her medicine when they need it. This inexpensive and portable solution offers the following:

  • Easy to use interface with no confusing technology for older family members
  • “Set it and forget it” programming: an alarm will alert the family member when it is time to take their medicine
  • Storage of up to one week’s worth of medicine at a time; can hold dozens of pills
  • Large LCD buttons and screen for configuring alarms – perfect for those with bad eyesight
  • Flashing lights and auditory responses will gently yet effectively remind the user when to take their medicine
  • Detachable daily pill blocs can be attached to the alarm keychain for on-the-go use

The MedMinder pill dispenser is available for around £20 on Amazon and through other retailers – a small price to pay for peace of mind for you, and better health for your loved ones.

GPS Watches

While not true for everyone, many older people resist technology due to a feeling of intimidation and a fear of the unknown. This can make it difficult to monitor or engage with the elderly in a remote fashion, but you want to be able to keep an eye on them no matter what. We all understand just how difficult this can be when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, so a passive solution is needed. Enter the concept of GPS watches, which are making big waves in the world of technology for the elderly. So how do they work?

GPS watches include a cellular responder that constantly tracks the location of the wearer. Anyone with a provided phone number or login from afar can pinpoint the exact location of the person at any time. This in turn will display the location on Google Maps or a similar mapping software, which can help you find the person in the event they have wandered off – or if they are currently at home.

Home Sensors

In the past few years, integrated home technology for the elderly has become increasingly common – especially for areas of the home where accidents are common (like the bathroom). A variety of home sensors are now available that can tell you a whole slew of things about what your elderly relative or friend is doing. Some of the possibilities include:

  • Whether the lights in the home have been left on or off
  • When the last time the front or back door was opened
  • If the person has entered the bathroom or bedroom
  • Home intercom systems that allow for instant help in the event an accident occurs
  • If appliances like the refrigerator or stove have been left open or on

Many people seek a new, optimized place for their loved ones to spend their retirement. If you are considering the purchase of a retirement home for your parent, grandparent or other relative, then asking about whether any smart home sensors are included or available is generally a good idea.

Phones for older people big-button-phone

Regardless of resistance to technology, one piece of technology for the elderly that most enjoy is a phone. Being able to chat with friends and family – as well as access emergency services if needed – shouldn’t be a hard sell. Many phones are not easy to use for older people, however, this has led to the development of many different phones being developed specifically for older people.

Some of the main features you can expect to find on a phone for older people include improved speakers for better hearing, large buttons that can be easily read and an emergency call button. A good example is the Big Button Memory Phone Not only does it come with extra large buttons to help them see numbers accurately, it also offers 8 picture customisable memory buttons so that loved ones can be reached easily.

New technology is coming on the market every day so if your elderly loved one is facing a challenge do get in touch and I will try my best to help.

10 Top Tips For Communicating With Someone Living With Dementia

Communicating with people living with dementia is one of the greatest challenges to relatives and carers alike so I hope these tips will help you.

All communication has a purpose and no word or action is meaningless. What sounds like nonsense or repetition of the same question or sentence is, to express a feeling, to show a need, to give information or to get a response. What appears to be an inappropriate response or action may be a form of communication and there can be different ways of interpreting their words or actions.

Communication is more complex than mere speech and difficulties usually begin when people with dementia struggle to find the right words. With my mother this sometimes turns into a guessing game with howls of laughter when I guess the wrong word and tears of frustration if we go on too long.

Things you can do: MC900433934-2

1. Slow down and present as calm, even if you don’t feel it!  People with dementia are unable to process information as quickly as we are.

2, Look into their eyes so they know you are talking to them.

3. Use open and relaxed body language (difficult in a stressful situation I know) and watch what their bodies are saying too.

4. Listen carefully and interpret the meaning behind what they are saying. What time is it? This might mean, I don’t know what I should be doing or I want to go home.  My mother often talks as if she is on an aircraft.  She probably means she wants to get far away from feeling confused, overwhelmed and forgetful.

5. Look for the meaning behind behaviour.  I find it helpful to replace the notion of ‘wandering’ with ‘wondering’ to find a solution. Wandering may have a purpose or the person might be responding to a hallucination.

6. Divert attention to another subject when the person keeps repeating the same questions.  As the long term memory is usually preserved for longer it may help to talk about something in the past.

7. Give reassurance.  I often find that by stroking Mum’s hand, or giving her a hug, the reassurance takes away the stress of her trying to communicate something that is clearly important to her.

8. Change the subject and go back to it later if the person becomes agitated.

9. End a visit calmly and positively.  Feelings will remain and visits can stimulate warm feelings and bring comfort to the person.  Afterwards your loved one may have forgotten your visit and who you are, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

10. Visual and spacial problems

Mirrors –  People may not recognise themselves and think it is someone else they are looking at.

They can misjudge the edge of the table or bathroom furniture unless distinctive with contrasting colours.

Pouring liquids can be can be difficult or even dangerous.

People with dementia are confused by busy patterns

Make sure there is plenty of light. Older people living with dementia often poor eyesight to!

Important to remember…

  • Feelings remain after facts are forgotten
  • The ability to sing remains after speech goes
  • It is the moment of their experience, the ‘here and now’ that is important to people living with dementia

Top Tips For Visiting Someone Living With Dementia

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.

 

6 Ways To Slow Progression of Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease

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.

1. Regular exercise Sepia Grunge Sign - Stay on Trail

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.

2. Healthy diet Foodswings Meal

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.

Important Tips:

  • 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.

 3. Mental Stimulation Radio Rectangle : Hobby

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.

 4. Quality sleep sleep

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.

5. Stress management ~ oneness meditation ~

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.

 6. Fill your social life with activityiPad

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.

Mum, Dad and Dementia

I was on a residential course for my social work training over 30 years ago when I first heard my mother had been diagnosed with dementia. She has had chronic mental and physical health issues all her adult life including anxiety and depression for which she had electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) Talking therapies such as counselling and CBT were not used in those days and I believe that ECT was responsible for her memory loss in the early days.

Mum has always been reserved, strong willed and used to getting her own way. She has also had a low self esteem for as long as I can remember, the reason for which I have never been able to understand.

I have seen first hand from working with people living with dementia how dementia effects everyone differently and how big a part personality, character, life experience, past occupation and lifestyle play in shaping a person’s dementia journey.

Mums dementia journeyleg-lifters

Over the years Mum’s memory deteriorated. Making choices became difficult for her and she would avoid answering the phone, asking my father to take over calls. Dad has always been a source of reassurance for my mother. Just by being around he provided her with a sense of security.

As Mum’s faculties declined my father gradually assumed responsibility for the things she could no longer manage – cooking, cleaning, laundry, finances and arranging and escorting her to the many appointments she had.

The impact of dementia on relationships

My parents had been happily married for over 60 years when my father’s eyesight and health began to fail. His previously placid manner began to change as he increasingly became frustrated with my mother, constantly correcting her when she said or did something wrong. I repeatedly asked him not to give in to the urge to ‘put Mum right’ when he knew something she said was wrong but he was unable to stop doing it.

It was sad to see two people who loved each other struggling to cope, My mother’s cognitive decline and deteriorating memory on the one hand and my father’s failing health and ability to cope on the other, both unable to understand each others’ perspective. They were both experiencing emotional reactions to debilitating, frustrating and frightening changes to their inner world and increasing dependence.

Dementia affects the whole family especially those closest to the person living with dementia. The impact on my father was made worse by his own deteriorating health. He was overcome with guilt at no longer being able to care for my mother and the anger and frustration he felt towards her was a new experience for him. This happened alongside increasing exhaustion due to his illness and it was painful to watch this proud, competent and kind man fighting dependency.

The end of an era

Eventually Dad could no longer cope. Mum’s frequent need for reassurance (the result of  anxiety and memory impairment) and her mental and physical dependency on my father got the better of him and my mother had to move into a care home, something I had always dreaded and done everything possible to avoid.

Separation anxiety

For a long time, my mother was even more anxious than usual. She refused to leave her room in the care home, refused to be compliant with staff (the only way she was able to maintain control) and talked of wanting to die. I think she was experiencing Separation Anxiety; a state of excessive anxiety when an individual is apart from a person (Dad) or place (her home) that makes them feel safe and secure. For people living with dementia, separation anxiety is one of the most common causes for wandering (or as I like to call it ‘wondering’ as there is always a reason) but as Mum was unable to walk unaided, she was unable to wander.

About a year after moving Mum  into a care home, my father’s health deteriorated. I moved in to care for him at the end of his life and he passed away soon after. Mum eventually had to leave the care home due to her poor mobility, lack of compliance with staff and challenging behaviour. However, I will save that story for next time!