If the symptoms of dementia are beginning to affect your loved one’s ability to live independently, it may be time to develop a care and support plan for them.
However, despite the very best intentions, it can often be difficult to understand the symptoms and behaviours that are linked with different types of dementia. This can leave the care-giver feeling helpless, isolated and overwhelmed by their new role.
Here, we have explored many of the questions that are commonly asked by those caring for someone with dementia. This guide draws on our wide experience of caring for hundreds of people with dementia and our understanding of the sadness and stress it can cause family and friends. We hope that the information provided here will go some way to alleviating your concerns and help you address the physical and emotional impact of the condition.
Of course, if you feel that a live in care package or our visiting care service would help you cope with the onset of dementia in your friend or family member, please contact our agency today to discuss your requirements.
How To Care for Someone With Dementia
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to care for someone with dementia – every person has their own unique needs. However, certain behaviours that are commonly displayed by those living with dementia can be handled using tried and tested techniques. The main thing to remember in all circumstances is that direct confrontation is best avoided, as this can distress the patient and lead to more extreme behaviour.
Frequently Asked Questions
Inside the home
It is recommended that any patterned carpets and wallpapers are removed from the home. These can often be confusing to those with dementia – they may try to interact with the detail. Mirrors can be a source of confusion, as the patient can misinterpret what they are seeing in their reflection, so for this reason, we would suggest covering up all mirrors and reflective surfaces where possible.You could also try displaying photos of family members and pictures that show happy images from your loved one’s previous life. These are likely to evoke positive feelings in the patient and help them recognise those closest to them.
Dementia can severely disrupt an individual’s sleep cycle. The easiest way to ensure a good night’s sleep is to make sure the patient is active and stimulated throughout the day – this will ensure they feel tired and ready for bed in the evening. Avoid naps where possible. If your loved one does need a rest, make sure they sleep at the same time every day, for the same amount of time.
Outside the home
With the right supervision, your loved one will benefit from a short stroll away from the home. If they are trying to travel to a specific location, talk to them about where they want to go and explain to them why it may not be possible for them to visit this particular place. We would always recommend creating a safe, outdoor space in a familiar setting, perhaps in a back garden, that can provide some respite. With a visiting or live in carer from Independent People Homecare, they can help a loved one take a walk safely. You may be able to get help through a local service, group or organisation that helps people with dementia to take part in leisure activities, including walking.
It’s not unusual for those living with dementia to want to retain their independence – and this may cause them to want to physically run away from you (and, indirectly, the constraints that are being placed on them). If this happens, don’t visibly chase your loved one, as this will make them feel as though they are being treated like a child. Follow them calmly, and remain as far away as you can. Remember that they may not recognise you, so they may react with distress if they feel they are being followed by someone they don’t know.
Eating and drinking
Many people struggle to eat and drink properly when living with dementia – and many will refuse the meal that is being presented to them. Wherever possible, cook food that you know your loved one likes. Explain what the food is and, if necessary, how to prepare or eat it. Try different flavours and preparation methods to stimulate their appetite, and choose colourful food that is easily identifiable. If they refuse food in the first instance, don’t be afraid to try again later in the day.
Understandably, many people with dementia will feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when they are being cared for. This can lead to distress when addressing many aspects of personal care, including washing and bathing. Your loved one should be encouraged to do as much for themselves as they can, as this will help them feel capable and independent. The key to managing their personal needs is to try various approaches until you find one that suits their needs. Perhaps you could wash at the same time to make them feel less self-conscious? Or maybe you could introduce wet wipes in the first instance to help them feel more at ease?
Many people with advanced dementia are not inclined to use the toilet. They may simply not be able to locate it, or they make struggle to decipher the cistern from the rest of their surroundings. Ensure that the toilet seat is bold, bright and easily identifiable; if needs be, place a visual sign on the toilet door to make it clear where the bathroom is. Always enter the bathroom first, as this will encourage your loved one to follow.
Aggression and inappropriate behaviour
As a rule, dementia is a largely disorientating condition. Losing their identity and independence can be extremely distressing for those living with dementia. The best way to cope when your loved one becomes agitated or angry is to try to identify the source of the problem. If the person is becoming frustrated that you are helping them, give them some space for a couple of minutes to allow them to calm down, then try again. You will soon begin to notice what triggers anxiety – from there, you can take steps to reduce exposure to the things that are causing negative reactions.