National Alzheimer's Day is a great day to re-evaluate the way people tend to think about Alzheimer's. It can be a difficult topic to speak about, especially when it affects your loved ones, but it shouldn't be stigmatised. People living with dementia are often happy and not suffering, especially when given the right care. There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. Anchor, the UK's largest not for profit housing and care provider for older people, who specialise in dementia care, have put together some top tips for people caring for their loved ones, so that you can maintain their strong, trusting relationship.
Tips for supporting people living with dementia
Create a memory box
And have fun doing it. Memory boxes help people living with dementia to recall people and events from the past. They help conjure up memories that can get a conversation started and stimulate happy emotions. The most effective memory boxes are filled with personal items of real significance to the person living with dementia, so this is an opportunity for the both of you to reminisce and relive your shared past. These items could link to a favourite holiday destination or a special family event and could include wedding photos, holiday postcards, ornaments, clothing, artwork or even newspaper clippings. At Anchor, we encourage everyone to have a memory box outside their room so they can recognise it as theirs.
Use every method of communication to reach your loved one
Get creative. Use art, music, storytelling, poetry reading, drama or dancing as a way to engage with people. Not only will this help you bond and talk, but they are also therapeutic acts that can relieve anxiety and tension.
Once you've opened up discussion, make sure you find out what is meaningful to your partner. It could be as simple as helping with the laundry and being involved in something they have never tried before, giving them new hopes and aspirations
The transformative power of music is amazing. It can help people recall certain memories, taking them back to a favourite place and time. The right song can also be great for calming people if they're feeling anxious or on edge. So put on your old favourites records, and enjoy the music together.
When travelling, plan your route and try to take the most relaxing option available to the both of you. People living from dementia tend to be heightened to anxiety - but don't let this stop you from spending time together outside. Planning for the easiest option can make journeys simpler and enjoyable.
Your loved one may have a poor appetite or lose interest in food altogether. It's important to encourage them to feel comfortable and confident at meal times and everything from the way you set up a table, the colour of the table cloth, the type of crockery used or even the music playing can help encourage people to eat.
Outside space is important as it provides the opportunity for exercise, fresh air, relieves tension and anxiety and offers personal space for reflection and privacy. Spending time outside in a garden has been shown to positively affect a person's emotions and to improve their sense of well-being. To make outside space more accessible to someone living with dementia, try to create paths and areas that are circular so that people going for walks will return to a familiar entrance rather than reaching a dead end in the path which will be confusing to them.
Involve your loved one in decision making
Whether it be big decisions about care or buying new accessories and furniture for your home. It's important that your loved one still knows their say is important and that they are very much part of the decisions being made at home.
Patience is key
It can be difficult caring for people with dementia and meeting their emotional needs can be hard. There will be frustrations, perhaps on both accounts, but remembering your partner and taking time to understand and respond to their feelings is important. Look beyond what the person is saying to find the meaning behind the words, and respond as best you can.
And finally… don't forget to look after yourself
Understand your own physical and emotional limitations, and take care of yourself to avoid 'care giver burnout'. When caring for someone else, it's easy to forget that we all have needs. So try to make time for yourself every single day, even if this is only a few minutes every day. You can also reach out to a carer support group.
tagged in Dementia