Coping with dementia
Dementias of all types can be difficult to come to terms with. Loved ones may change their behaviour or personality and those living with dementia may feel confused, anxious and angry.
It's important to remember that for everyone living with dementia, their journey is their own. Unique to them and different for everybody. Symptoms do not follow a clear path, progression may be rapid, slow, fits & starts or may not even progress much at all depending on the cause & type of dementia.
We'd urge everyone living with dementia - and their families - to make use of the support services available. From care agencies such as ourselves, day centres and Community Mental Health professionals, there's help available.
We know that the everyday things can often be the most frustrating for families living with dementia so here's our top tips to help.
Accept official help
Accepting help is NOT a sign of weakness! Please access all available services.
- Physiotherapists & Occupational Therapists can help ensure that the home is fitted with suitable aids in cases of poor mobility or general ill health - simply ask your GP to refer you.
- Some Memory Services offer day trips, cognitive stimulation groups, support groups & education.
All about my life
Create a life story scrapbook containing photographs & mementos from the person's life with a couple of lines of text under each photo to tell the story.
- Useful for reminiscences
- Can help if someone is disoriented as to place or person
- Can be used alongside photos in the house
Staying as active as possible brings benefits to overall health & mood.
Eat well and encourage the patient to drink plenty of fluids as it's easy - particularly if housebound with reduced mobility - to become dehydrated.
Be Brain Agile
Keep the brain active & stimulated by doing crosswords, jigsaws, playing music or doing knitting.
Top Tip: Dig out those old vinyl LPs and play them again to evoke great memories!
Be kind to yourself
Please don't forget to look after yourself too!
If you're living with dementia it's a tough time with lots to come to terms with. Allow yourself treats. Go on trips. Take pleasure from the smallest things and don't be hard on yourself.
If you're caring for someone with dementia then accept that you can't do it all. Accept help. Take respite and do the best that you can but don't make yourself ill through stress & overwork. There is help out there. Call us. We can help.
It occurred to me that at one point it was like I had two diseases - one was Alzheimer's, and the other was knowing I had Alzheimer's. - Terry Pratchett
Be the calm within the storm
Living with dementia can be a scary, confusing & disorientating time in someone's life so it's not surprising that they may sometimes become angry, agitated or distressed.
- Stay calm, there's no need to argue the point
- Give space
- Contact relative or friend for support
- Allow the situation to calm and then distract by suggesting an activity - could be as simple as a tea & biscuit!
Care for the carer
Don't forget to look after yourself too! Caring for loved ones can be incredibly tiring & stressfull.
- Consider Carers educational courses, designed to help with additional skills
- Make use of the resources provided by Age UK & the Alzheimer's Society - their online chat forums can be a great way to talk to others in similar situations and pick up ideas or just a friendly note of support.
- Take breaks. You need to be refreshed. Enquire about respite care.
- Accept help from your own support network of friends & family.
Dealing with anxiety
People living with dementia may become distressed or anxious as they believe they should be doing something in particular such as going to work or caring for a baby.
Remember the emotion they feel is very real and help talk it through. Talk about work for example, don't dismiss concerns but gently lead them away from the subject - "You're off work at the moment, shall we have a cuppa?"
Too often we see well meaning family members dump a loved one in an armchair - particularly if they've also got some mobility problems - and then don't let them do anything!
It might sound like a very pleasant existence being waited on hand & foot but actually, it palls after a while. So please make sure that you allow the person with dementia to do all the day to day tasks that they can!
It could be helping prepare food, doing bits of DIY, cleaning, washing the dishes or helping grandkids with their homework - dementia is rarely a huge, sudden step change (other than an initial stroke for example) and those living with dementia have a much better quality of life if they can still potter about the house and do day-to-day activities.
Use it or lose it!
There's often no issues with driving - particularly in the early stages of dementia - but do heed the advice of your GP, Mental Health Nurse or Psychiatrist and inform the DVLA of a dementia diagnosis.
Ask yourself if you feel safe with your relative driving? How's their speed perception & spatial awareness?
In case of becoming lost or disoriented, program HOME as a destination into the sat nav and consider writing the address on a note sellotaped to the dashboard.
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