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For our third blog in our Dementia Awareness series we want to highlight how to support someone with dementia. Dementia can make someone feel confused, scared and uncomfortable in their own home, so anything that you as a partner, family member or carer can do to help will contribute to putting their mind at ease.

There are different things that people with dementia might struggle with, so here is a list of some of the potential problems and ways you can go about them to support their dementia.

1. They may forget recent conversations and events

The way that dementia affects the brain means that information is not always stored, meaning that there is no memory of the conversation or event to bring back.

How you can help:

  • Use pictures and written descriptions to record things that have happened.
  • Encourage them to use a diary or calendar to record important events and conversations.
  • Answer their questions simply and repeat things as often as needed. Maybe writing down important information would help and try not to tell them that they’ve already heard the information before.
  • If someone can’t remember if they’ve done something or not, using prompts rather than direct questions can help. For example, ‘It must be a while since you ate breakfast, are you hungry?’ instead of ‘Have you had breakfast?’

2. They may forget names and words

Having dementia can cause difficulties with finding the right words in a conversation – for example, confusing one word for another or forgetting the meaning of certain words. They may also forget the names of friends or family, too.

How you can help:

  • Don’t rush them – give them time to think and to say what they are trying to say.
  • If you understand the context of what they’re trying to say, prompts and clues might help.
  • If they’ve forgotten someone’s name, use ways to remind them that don’t draw attention to the fact that they’ve forgotten – try, ‘Here’s your friend, Jane’.
  • Use a tool like a ‘memory book’ or ‘memory box’ with photos and information about people they know – how they know them, their name etc.

3. They may find everyday tasks difficult

As dementia progresses, daily tasks that follow a set of steps like getting dressed or making a cup of tea can become confusing.

How you can help:

  • Help them break the tasks down into smaller, more manageable steps. Write short descriptions nearby for them to follow.
  • Make items visible to them that they might need to access.
  • Use sticky notes or wall calendars for one-off tasks and set up more permanent reminders for regular tasks – perhaps signs by the front door to remember their keys and wallet, for example.

4. They may get lost when they leave their home

When leaving their house, someone with dementia may struggle with remembering where they’re going, why they’re going there and then may find it difficult to make their way back home.

How you can help:

  • If they struggle on their own, accompanying them or finding someone to do so when they need to go out would be a good option.
  • If possible, telling neighbours and nearby shops about their situation and asking them to keep an eye out would help.
  • Having an easy-to-use mobile would be beneficial, or even something like a GPS device.
  • Make sure they have some form of ID when they go out, and perhaps contact numbers.

5. They may struggle to recognise faces

As dementia progresses, it may have an effect on how they recognise familiar faces, and even their own reflection. This can be extremely confusing and make them feel like there are intruders in their home. Although they may not recognise those closest to them, they can still have an emotional attachment to them.

How you can help:

  • Again, the use of tactful reminders rather than highlighting the fact they can’t remember something is a good way to go about it. For example, ‘Hasn’t our grandson grown?’
  • Reassure them as best you can – it can be a strange feeling being surrounded by strangers that all seem to know you.
  • If you can, try not to show feelings of being upset or offended if they don’t recognise you – it won’t be personal. They may still smile or want to speak to you even though they might not recognise you – they may recognise smaller things like your voice or perfume.

These tips should help with different ways to approach different situations when caring for a loved one with dementia. For further information about Dementia Awareness Week, follow this link.

If you or your loved one are looking into Dementia Care, check out the information on our website about what we can offer at Clarity Homecare and get in touch with your local office to discuss the right care package for you or your loved one.

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