Top 10 tips for caring for someone with dementia at home
Caring for someone with dementia at home can be incredibly difficult, both emotionally, and physically. As a family member or spouse finding themselves in the position of caring for someone with dementia, it’s important to prepare for what lies ahead.
Conversely to what you may be led to understand, it is possible for a person to lead a good quality of life when living with dementia.
1. Learn about the dementia
Understand as much as you can about dementia, and in particular, the type of dementia your loved one has been diagnosed with.
Different types of dementia can present their own challenges, however generally speaking, all dementia types will come with declining ability in memory, cognitive health and ability to communicate.
Being familiar with what you might expect can help, however try not to get to rigid to an idea of what may or may not happen. Stay in the present and make the most of each day as it comes.
2. Mental and emotional preparation
This will be an emotional journey, one that will exhaust you, have you in tears at times. As well as all the tough times you face ahead of you both, there will be rewarding moments, times when you laugh together, possibly grow stronger and closer.
Preparing both mentally and emotionally for what lies ahead of you on this journey can enable you to work with your loved one so that they get the best of you. It is entirely possible, with your help for someone with dementia to lead a good quality of life.
The key is to take the right approach. Take care of your own emotions, it’s a huge shock to learn that someone close to you has dementia, and coming to terms with it will help you to embark on this journey with a positive outlook.
Be prepared for changes, as the dementia progresses, the person you are caring for will change, as will their ability to communicate. They may also go through behaviour changes that you will need to be able to manage and understand.
3. Remember the person
While caring for someone, it is easy to become focussed on tasks that you need to do for them. It is also common to put changes of behaviour down to the dementia, whereas it could be that the person is in pain for example, and is not able to communicate this in the usual ways. It could also be that there is too much noise or not enough light.
Always keep the person at the forefront, observing and learning as you both continue along this journey.
4. Use activities
Activities help to provide a sense of purpose and belonging, which in turn helps to retain a sense of well-being.
Keep the person with dementia involved in day to day activities, as well as the activities they usually enjoy. You may need to adapt as the dementia progresses, for example, if they love football but are no longer able to cope with going to live matches like they used to, you may wish to set time aside to watch the match on the television instead.
Activities can be simple things to do around the home, like setting the table for dinner for example. They might also be activities that engage the person with dementia such as creating a life story, or a memory box so that you can do reminiscence activities together.
If you are caring for an ageing parent with dementia, this can be particularly interesting as you discover much more about their life. Singing can also be an excellent activity to stimulate someone with dementia.
5. Set and keep routines
Keep communicating with the person, regularly. Keeping in close communications means that you will be able to easily spot changes and adapt accordingly. When communication becomes more difficult, make conversations shorter and more specific.
As the person’s ability to communicate declines, you will also need to use particular communication skills to help you to understand the needs of the person you are supporting, as well as enabling you both to get the best out of the conversation.
7. Diet and exercise
The right diet and regular exercise is important for everyone, however with dementia, a healthy well planned and thought out diet can help to maintain cognitive health for longer. Ensure that the person you are caring for is getting the right nutrition as well as keeping well hydrated.
Exercise will be a good part of your daily routine, 30 minutes a day of brisk walking will also help later on as the dementia progresses as it can ease boredom and release any tension.
8. Adapting the home
There are home adaptations that can be made to ensure the home is safe for the person with dementia, as well as being easy to navigate. Dementia can cause the person to forget what is in a room or cupboard, and they end up getting confused. Try using signs on doors and cupboards.
If the person has limited mobility, you can make adjustments around the home to help them stay more independent.
9. Encourage independence
As much as you can, encourage the person to keep doing things for themselves. This helps them to keep a sense of purpose.
If they are able to dress themselves, this is good, let them continue, and focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t. If the person likes to make their own cup of tea but is struggling to use the electric kettle because in their mind they are looking for a whistle kettle for the hob, you can join their world and buy one so that they are able to continue this activity for themselves.
10. Get support
It’s important that you have support, there are other people caring for people with dementia, you are not alone. You should be able to find a local support group that you can meet with regularly, whether that is a dementia specific group, or a family carers group.
When you are caring for someone, you will need to take regular breaks, like a couple of days off a week if you can, as well as a few hours a day. If you are unable to schedule in some friends and family to help, or are limited as to how much they can help, MyLife is able to fill in the gaps, even at short notice.
Sadly, too many family carers wait until they reach a crisis point before they will take help or admit they need help. Help is not failing, we all need rest and you need it to be able to provide the best for your loved one.