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.
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 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
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.
Following the recent attention on dementia and the G8 Dementia Summit (check out my blog The G8 Dementia Summit – A Missed Opportunity) I have been reflecting on my short time as a Dementia Champion for the Dementia Friends Initiative.
Increasing prevalence of dementia
There are now over 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK and this will triple over the next 30 years. One of the most worrying statistics is that 1 in 3 of us will get dementia at some stage in our life and the rest will feel its impact from a friend, relative or someone they know who is living with dementia.
The UK is not alone. Dementia has become a worldwide problem and there has been a growing number of towns, cities and communities worldwide striving to better meet the needs of their older residents living with dementia.
Lack of awareness, fear, stigma and misunderstanding
I have found a lack of understanding about dementia and resistance to find out more about it with a slow take up of the one hour free information sessions I offer as a Dementia Champion.
I think this is because people are scared of dementia, which has replaced cancer as the disease that people fear most. This fear is fuelled by stigma and misunderstanding as well as the misguided perception that it ‘won’t happen to me’.
Unfortunately, dementia will not go away if we ignore it and I am on a mission to empower people about dementia and play a role in helping communities understand dementia so they can become more inclusive for the increasing number of people living with dementia.
A personal and professional interest in dementia
My interest and passion for dementia comes from my mother who has lived with dementia for many years and the fact that 80% of my elderly clients are living with dementia too.
About Dementia Friends
As the brain gradually shuts down people with dementia sometimes need a helping hand to go about their daily lives and feel included in the local community.
Dementia Friends is about giving more people an understanding of dementia and the small things that could make a difference to people living in their local community.
The initiative is funded by the Department of Health and the Cabinet Office and championed by the Prime Minister
Dementia Friends is one part of Alzheimer’s Society’s work to create more dementia friendly communities – places that are more understanding and welcoming of people living with dementia. Their target is to recruit one million Dementia Friends by 2015.
Dementia friendly communities
The “dementia friendly communities” programme focuses on improving the inclusion and quality of life of people with dementia. In these communities:
- people will be aware of and understand more about dementia;
- people with dementia and their carers will be encouraged to seek help and support;
- people with dementia will feel included in their community, be more independent and have more choice and control over their lives.
And it’s great publicity for businesses that sign up. The Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia includes an ambition to create communities that are working to help people live well with dementia. With the right attitude and approach people certainly can live well with dementia.
It will be a challenge to make our communities dementia friendly and neighbours, families, friends, companies, shops, taxi firms, banks, GP surgeries, dentists, professionals, hairdressers and other service providers need to become involved.
In a dementia friendly community:
- people will be, aware of and understand more about dementia
- people with dementia and their carers will be encouraged to seek help and support
- people with dementia will feel included in their community, be more independent and have more choice and control over their lives
And it’s great publicity for businesses that staff sign up to becoming Dementia Friends.
Living well with dementia
With the right attitude and understanding people can live well with dementia and we all need to accept social responsibility and play our part in making it happen.
Dementia should be everyone’s concern not just the government’s. Becoming a Dementia Friend will help you become informed and play your part so check out the Dementia Friends website now. Alternatively contact me via my website Relative Matters and I will be happy to help you.
The time to act is now
Old age is not about ‘them’ it is about all of us and dementia will touch all our lives directly or indirectly. The time to act is now and I urge you as an individual/business to open your hearts and minds and become a Dementia Friend.
For anyone with dementia who becomes confused remembering what day of the week it is, or whether it is morning afternoon, evening or night time, look no further. This clock is absolutely ideal. It is delightfully simple and provides reassurance which helps everyone (not just those living with dementia) I have suggested it to several people who have relatives living with dementia and they have all been thrilled, although some did comment on the high cost. We have just bought one for our Mother’s birthday. As you know my mother has dementia and lives in a care home.
We had sorted out her visits and appointments by attaching a large whiteboard to the wall in her room (with the Managers permission of course) and used a permanent marker to rule out the days of the week and we list what is happening during the coming week each Sunday with a dry marker. Staff are always commenting on how useful it is but Mum struggled because she didn’t know what day of the week it was. This little gem will keep her orientated beautifully.
I have always explained to Mum that dementia is jargon for having memory problems but I know the word upsets some people, as does the word Alzheimer’s disease. If your elderly loved one is likely to be upset, you might want to put it in another box.
Although it certainly isn’t cheap, I think the peace of mind it brings makes it a good investment.