13 Jul Caring For A Loved One With Dementia
What is dementia
Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. As a population we are living longer, which has led to more and more people living with this long-term condition.
Caring for someone with dementia has a significant impact on your life. It can be positive and rewarding, but it can also present challenges and is likely to affect how you are feeling and can be difficult.
Tips on how to support a loved one with dementia:
- If the person finds verbal communication difficult, speak clearly and a little more slowly using simple words and sentences. It is important not to talk to the person as if they are a child.
- Try to maintain eye contact, this will help the person focus on you.
- Stay calm and speak with a pleasant tone.
- Sit at the same level as the person you are talking to, do not stand too close to them as this can feel intimidating.
- Avoid asking too many direct open questions, such as ‘What do you want to do today?’ as these can be harder to process try ‘Are you feeling well today?’
Everyday tips to make things easier:
- Consider using visual reminders, such as a wall calendar or a noticeboard in an obvious place. They may want to record reminders in a mobile phone calendar, notebook, or diary.
- Buy a daily newspaper, the date and the day of the week are always on the front page.
- Mark a calendar with the date or try an electric calendar on a device like Alexa or their phone
- Consider reminders for activities the person does regularly like such as a note by the door to remember their keys and wallet
- Use visual clues that explain where items go, like pictures or photos with words on cupboard doors.
- Be consistent. Keep important things like money, keys and glasses in the same place.
- Put helpful numbers by the phone so they are easily seen.
- Encourage visitors like friends and family to write down when they are visiting and why, so they know what to expect throughout the day.
- Make sure the person is included in conversations by giving them time to speak and try not to talk on their behalf. Ask others to communicate directly with the person too.
- Listen to the person as closely as you can and remove distractions such as background noise.
Caring for someone with dementia has a significant impact on your life. It can be positive and rewarding, but it can also present challenges and is likely to affect how you are feeling and can be difficult. It can cause a lot of worry, stress and difficulty in your day-to-day life which can lead to feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness. When you are caring for someone else, it can be easy to overlook your own needs but looking after your health will enable you to cope in your caring role.
Support for you
Talk to your GP
It’s a good idea to tell your GP that you are now caring for someone with dementia. This means you can register as a ‘carer’, which may be useful for a few reasons, for example:
- The GP can give you helpful information and let you know where you can get more support.
- They may be able to arrange appointments at times that are more suitable for you.
- They can offer you free annual health checks and flu vaccinations. If you have the same GP as the person you support, they may ask the person’s permission to share information with you.
Looking after yourself
The challenges of caring can mean that you may not have time to do all the things you need to. You might feel that it is not always possible to make time for yourself, but it is important both for your own health and wellbeing and to help you carry on caring.
Try talking to other people you trust, this can help you to feel less isolated and stressed, and to put things in perspective.
As well as talking to others, it is also important to involve other people in the caring role, taking regular breaks and looking after your own health.
- Involving other people
You may find involving family members and friends helps to give you a break and reduce some of your stress. If you have not had much support from friends or family members so far, there may be varied reasons for this.
Let people know you need some support. Even if they cannot offer help with day-to-day caring, you could ask them to help with certain things (such as paying bills or picking up medication). They may also agree to support the person from time to time so that you can have a break.
- Looking after your own health
Caring can have a big impact on your mental and physical health and wellbeing. The following tips will help you to look after yourself so you can go on caring.
- Eat balanced meals
- Keep physically and mentally active–go for walks, gardening, joining a gym or exercise class. Try reading, learning a language, or doing puzzles or crosswords. Find something that you enjoy and gives you some well deserved, ‘you time.’
- Be available for your own hobbies, interests, or things you find fun
- Try to get enough sleep
- Taking a break
You will need to take regular breaks from caring for and spending time with your friends and family. Caring for someone with dementia is a heavy responsibility but you should still have short breaks like the afternoon off or a holiday for a week or two while someone else steps into support.
You can also look at having for fixed help with regular carers for activities of daily living or look at things that may give you a break like Friday evening put to bed and Saturday morning out of bed, wash, and breakfast call. You could combine this with a PacSana device for your peace of mind and know your loved one is safe in their home. This would give you some much needed time to yourself on a regular basis with confidence they are being well looked after.
Assistive technology for memory problems
There are lots of devices that are designed to help with memory problems.
- Calendar clocks to help remember the day, date, and time
- Medication devices to ensure adherence to taking prescribed medication. (This should be regularly assessed of suitability of use as the user must be able to take tablets once they are dispensed). https://www.evondos.com/
- Monitoring devices like PacSana (links to our info page) to give peace of mind that they are safe in their home and do not have abnormal movement patterns. This device also has an alert that goes straight to next of kin in case of an emergency.
- You can call Alzheimer’s Society on 03331503456
- Talk to other carers in our online community alzheimers.org.uk/talkingpoint
- Find out what services are available in your area at alzheimers.org.uk/dementiadirectory