Dementia is a growing concern for our society: recent data from Alzheimer’s Research predicts that one in three people born today will develop dementia.
In terms of care, a very high percentage (97% - One Poll, 2014) of all elderly people say they do not want to leave their own homes to receive care. In the case of dementia, the continued familiarity of home can be of comfort and help people to stay independent for longer. So how can you help someone with Dementia if they are living at home? We look at some tips.
While dementia affects many functions of the brain, the imagination stays strong for many years after its onset. This means music and art can still prove a rewarding experience. A way you can help is by playing your loved one’s favourite songs and encouraging them to pursue creative hobbies such as gardening or crafts. Have a think about what they like to do and make sure they’ve got everything they need to pursue said hobbies.
Direct questions can unnerve a person with dementia. Instead of asking a direct question perhaps start the conversation by telling them something you have been doing and letting the conversation flow. Always seek to reassure them with a positive, calm response to questions. Don’t argue with them - people with dementia often cling to memories from their past which means can find themselves living in a different reality.
For people with dementia, keeping control of areas of their life such as sleep and appetite can be a huge help - physical activities can help these things. Keeping active at home is great, but remember that relatively simple tasks can become difficult for a person with dementia. Single-step activities are the best, such as sweeping, folding or sorting. Dog-walking and gardening can also be enjoyable and help maintain routine.
People with dementia often lose their appetite due to medication, depression, difficulty swallowing or a sedentary lifestyle. They might also forget the words to ask for certain things. An option here can be to serve some of the person’s favourite foods and let them graze over a few hours rather than serving a big meal. Make sure drinks are visible, for example by serving them in colourful glasses. If you think they are struggling to swallow, try serving softer dishes such as scrambled egg. Soups are another easy meal with plenty of variations. Dehydration can be a problem for people with Dementia so make sure the person always knows where their drink is and prompt them to take regular sips.
People with dementia sometimes cling to memories from their youth to help them make sense of their current situation, but they are still the same person they have always been underneath. To help this you can create a history box or scrapbook for them to look through, or spend time looking at a family photo album with them.