All posts tagged elderly relatives

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.


The Secret To Finding The Right Care Home For Your Elderly Relative

Finding the right care home for an elderly loved one can be time consuming, stressful and overwhelming. Where do you begin when presented with a long list of care homes in their area? How will you know which one is best for them?

The secret

  • The secret is that you need to personalise your research by using personal selection criteria. Here are some of the things you need to think about:
  • What geographical area do they want to live in?
  • What kind of care home do they need? A residential home, a care home with nursing or a specialist home for people living with dementia?
  • What budget do they have? If your relative is being funded by the local authority, they will have a limit to the amount they will pay so find this out before you begin your search

What is important to and for your relative? 009_old_woman_smiling_optimised[2]

When looking for a care home for my clients, I begin with the question, ‘What is important to you about living in a care home?’ If they are unable to answer for themselves, I ask the people who know them best. Sometimes they need a little help so I prompt them. These are a few of the things I have been asked to include in a care home search.

Having a nice garden, being pet friendly, having a nice view from the window, WiFi access, living near family, access to public transport, being part of a small group, having people to talk to, having plenty to do, being treated with dignity and respect, feeling in control, not having to move again if condition deteriorates, ensuite facilities, being able to take my own bed and chair, having breakfast in bed, be near church, male as well as female staff, somewhere quiet to meditate etc.

Then I find out what is important for them. For example, level access, staff trained in managing dementia, access to trained health professionals, cater for special diet, staff trained in end of life care, meets National care standards etc.

See things from your relative’s perspective

When looking for a care home, it is important to try and see things from the person’s perspective rather than your own.

For example when we had to find a new care home for my mother who is living with dementia, it was more important to find a home that would be able to manage her difficult behavioural and mental health issues than one having nice furniture, matching bedding and ensuite facilities. We initially found it difficult to visualise Mum in a home where the decor and furniture didn’t match and there was an expectation that she would be brought to the dining room for breakfast (she had been enjoying breakfast in bed for over 10 years) and have to sit in the lounge or conservatory with others all day. In her previous care home she had refused to move from her room where she stayed all day every day.

We soon realised our fears were unfounded. Mum has responded magnificently to the calm atmosphere and gentle, confident approach from staff. The staff team who are multicultural and dress in their own individual way, treat our Mother with dignity and respect and always have a warm smile for us when we visit. She is also oblivious to the functional and uncoordinated decor, furniture and equipment, despite these things having been important to her in the past.

Lessons to be learned

There are lesson to be learned here. Firstly, don’t assume that your mother or father will find the same things important to them as they did in the past, as like my mother this might not be the case. Secondly  routine and a calm atmosphere are important for people living with dementia.

Another example of a personal approach to finding the right care home is one of my recent clients. Something that was important to her was that the room was big enough to accommodate her double bed and bedroom furniture, the home was plush as she was leaving a large luxury apartment and there were regular social functions and people she could talk to as she craved company.

Good luck with your search and remember , the secret is to find the right home for your loved one rather than yourself.

Top Tips For Keeping Older People Safe From Bogus Callers During Summer

Did you see ‘Married to the job?’ It’s a documentary series following high-ranking female police officers, and the interaction between their work and home life. In the first episode, Detective Inspector Kay Lancaster lead an investigation into a ruthless team of criminals who victimise old people living alone.

It reminded me how vulnerable older people who live alone are, especially during the summer. A pensioner who lives alone, which presents an opportunity for a certain kind of criminal, occupies 1 in 8 households. It’s called ‘distraction burglary’ and targets the most vulnerable people in our society, not just older people, but those who have poor health or are living with dementia.

Why criminals prey on older people in the summer? Summer

Aids and equipment such as wheelchairs and walking frames act as magnets for criminals, who use a bogus identity like being from the Water Board to gain entry. They typically work in pairs; while one distracts the older person the other carries out the theft.

During the summer months, windows are more likely to be open providing an open invitation to criminals.

Top tips to keep your elderly relatives and community elders safe from bogus callers

  •  Ensure they have a chain fixed to their front door
  • Don’t leave aids and equipment outside their property
  • Place a note in large print by their front door reminding them not to let anyone they don’t know into their home without asking for proof of identity. Include important phone numbers such as 999, their local water board, gas and electricity supplier. If the older person is not sure, tell them not to let the person in and call the organisation they are supposed to be representing.
  • If the older person has dementia and is very forgetful, tell them not to let anyone they don’t know in before contacting you, another relative, friend or a neighbour and write the note to reinforce it. Write this on a note in large print by their front door.
  • Make sure ground floor windows have a lock on so the window can only be opened so far.

Age Uk publish a helpful booklet  ‘Avoiding Scams’ giving more information you may find helpful


Arranging A Tradesperson For Elderly Relatives

When your elderly loved one needs a job done, don’t look in the newspaper or on-line. There are some rogues out there who don’t have a conscience. Whenever I am supporting someone to arrange for a tradesman to attend to something in their home or garden, I always check the directory offered by Trading Standards departments called “Buying with Confidence”. Every trader and business listed in this guide has been vetted by Trading Standards officers to ensure that they: Carpenter

  • Are committed to fair-trading and to providing a quality service for their customers.
  • Can produce Criminal Records Bureau checks for staff who want to work in people’s homes.
  • Make sure their staff are competent for the work they carry out.
  • Deal with customers promptly, efficiently and courteously.
  • Undertake to comply with the spirit of the letter of the law and not restrict customers’ rights.
  • Have a sound customer complaints procedure.

Ar Relative Matters we have a Book of Recommendations where I log people/firms who have been recommended to me.

While these measures can’t guarantee a good job  by an honest and reliable tradesperson, the chances of a good job being done at a fair price are greatly increased.

Living With Dementia – Ten Top Tips For Carers

Do you have an elderly relative living with dementia? It is likely that you do because 1 in 3 of us will know someone with dementia.

My own experience is informed by working for Social Services and the NHS for many years and supporting people living with dementia in my elderly care consultancy. My mother was also diagnosed with dementia over 20 years ago so I understand personally, the devastating effect it can have on an individual and family life. Here are my top tips based on that experience.

Get into the right frame of mind

Breathe deeply, centre yourself, imagine what it would be like to step into the person with dementia’s shoes and enter their world.

Give them your attention

People with dementia need the same opportunities as everyone else to share their worries, feelings and views. Part of being a person is being acknowledged. Observe, imagine and associate with what the person is feeling in your heart.

Allow plenty of time

Managing services for a local authority, struggling to find enough money to meet ever increasing demands with a diminishing budget, we had to focus on a task orientated ‘time and task’ approach which put pressure on staff and often left clients feeling bewildered. You need to allow time for the person to process information as they will become anxious if they are rushed.

Find out about them

I cannot stress enough how important it is to understand an individual’s background in order to deliver person- centred care. Every person living with dementia will have personal attributes, strengths, skills, hobbies and interests, work and life experiences. You need to find out what they are to build up a personal profile so care can be consistent and personalised.

Give the gift of ‘presence’

By this I mean simply be with the person and listen to their feelings and concerns in a non-judgmental way.

Show that you are listening

Get into the moment, respond from your heart and rephrase what they are saying to show that you are listening and that you empathise with them.

Tune into their feelings and emotions rather than what they are saying

Match their tone and say something like  “You are feeling upset. It feels scary when things are changing doesn’t it?” (or whatever you think may really be troubling them)

Use photographs to create a life story book and a memory box with their personal memorabilia MH900341736

People living with dementia use past experiences to make sense of their current reality and these tools will enable you to validate the person’s life. A Life Story Book is really easy to make and you can find out here.

You can also use a a photograph album, life story book or memory box to distract attention if the person is feeling anxious or upset.

Shift their mood when you need to

Connect them with happy memories. “Can you remember a time when you were happy? Lets have a look at some photos to jog your memory”

Use new technology to help manage their care

New technology brings new devices and tools that can help to  reduce anxiety, maintain independence, reduce care costs and create a less oppressive care environment. Just a few of the things I got my mother when she lived at home are a light that stuck over the bed with a motion sensor so it came on when she got up at night that I bought from Wilkinsons, a day clock that just tells the day and time of day and  and a nifty gadget called a wander minder that I used to remind her to turn the tap off on her catheter after she had emptied it. iPads are also great for people living with dementia. Here are some posts where I have written about them. Ten Reasons Why iPads are Magic for Older PeopleTen Smart Apps for Older People To Use On Their iPad- Part One, Ten Smart Apps For Older People To Use On Their iPad- Part TwoThe Arrival of An iPadDigital Technology, Social Care and Older People

There are always new things coming into the marketplace so keep a look out on my shop which is currently being developed. The following sites are also useful to keep your eye on shops at  MyAgeing Parent and Alzheimer’s Society

Look after yourself

Whether you are caring for an elderly relative yourself, managing their care  or working with people living with dementia it can be exhausting and very stressful. Make sure you have someone to talk to, have regular breaks and ask for help if you need it.


Caring for elderly relatives in the winter season

Caring for elderly relatives is important at any time of year, but when temperatures plummet and weather conditions are less than favourable this becomes even more vital. The winter weather poses a number of risks to all individuals, but those in their later years are often the most susceptible. Limited mobility is obviously a huge disadvantage when it comes to navigating icy paths.

Food and Warmth

Widespread financial issues left many older people with a difficult choice to make last year: eat or heat? Energy price hikes occurred across the board, with suppliers raising both their gas and electricity rates by considerable amounts.

This made it increasingly difficult for older people to afford what is after all, a basic amenity and a shocking number were expected to abandon heating altogether. A report in The Guardian from last winter detailed how Age UK predicted this action could lead to as many as 200 deaths per day, revealing that there had been over 26,000 excess winter deaths in the preceding year (2010-2011)

To prevent a similar situation arising this year, families are being urged to consider these basic needs when caring for elderly relatives. If you are worried that someone you know may struggle to afford food and warmth, then offer assistance.

This doesn’t necessarily mean paying for the services out of your own pocket, but could simply equate to helping am elderly loved one use their heating more efficiently in order to reduce their energy consumption and the bills associated with it.

Investigating whether they could benefit from changing energy suppliers or tariffs could also prove beneficial and looking into government incentives such as loft insulation, cold weather and winter fuel payments can also be helpful.

Health and Companionship

Perhaps the biggest problem experienced by the elderly over winter is deterioration in their health – both physical and emotional. Make sure you keep an eye on your relatives by visiting them regularly. This will help you detect any potential health risks early on whilst protecting their emotional health by providing companionship.

Routine vaccinations such as the flu jab are important defences against winter illness, so make sure your elderly loved ones are up to date with this protection. Ensuring they have appropriate winter clothing, such as thick coats and shoes with plenty of grip, will also help to ensure that they remain mobile over the winter – giving them the support and care they deserve. If your elderly relative is immobile then ensure they have the care and facilities, such as a stairlift, to remain active and to ensure have independence.


Unfortunately, the onset of the Christmas period means that our homes become bigger targets for thieves. This can make some elderly people feel vulnerable and concerned about leaving their homes unattended – thus negatively affecting their quality of life.

To combat this, make sure that adequate security systems are in place. This could be anything from investing in alarm systems to fitting decoy cameras and other burglar deterrents. If there is a neighbourhood watch association in the local area then make sure you speak to them in order to get additional protection for your elderly relatives.