Guide to supporting a loved one with dementia
Little can prepare someone for being diagnosed with dementia but support from the early stages can help.
With Britain’s population ageing, more people will be living with dementia so it is important to provide them with as much support as possible.
Becky Garwood, Anchor Hanover’s Care Quality Manager, has offered advice to help people who are looking after a relative living with dementia to mark Dementia Action Week.
She says: “It can be a huge strain on relatives looking after someone living with dementia but there are simple steps which could help the person be less confused and anxious.
“Dementia affects people’s short-term memory but their long-term memory can remain unaffected. So while the person might find the here and now confusing, looking at artefacts and photos from their past can help initiate conversation and help them express their emotions.
“So having a reminiscence box of old photos of family holidays and get-togethers, CDs of their favourite songs and favourite films, or items associated with a hobby will help stimulate them and make them feel happier.
“It might be they won’t remember a conversation created by this reminiscence box but the positive emotions this creates will remain with them.”
Even if the person is still living in their own home, this can be a confusing place. Anchor Hanover has conducted research which has shown that using colour contrasts in home design can help reduce anxiety and possible accidents.
“Our research has found that doors and hand rails painted a distinctly different colour to the walls, for example, helps residents distinguish between them, which makes walking round their home less confusing and hazardous" Becky says.
“I would suggest using crockery which contrasts with the table cloths so that someone with dementia can easily see where the edge of the plate is.
“Cooking meals using different coloured ingredients stimulates appetite. Avoid placing similar coloured foods next to each other on the plate – this can help people recognise the different food items, making mealtimes a more enjoyable experience."
Becky's other key advice includes:
- Continuing any activity which they enjoyed before diagnosis, such a going for walks or playing an instrument, would raise their spirits
- Using electronic tablets and virtual reality headset. These are a great resource whether it’s looking at an area where the person grew up or continuing a favourite pastime
Becky adds: “We pride ourselves on the care we provide in our homes, eight of which are rated outstanding by regulator The Care Quality Commission, so I wanted to use Dementia Action Week to share our knowledge and help relatives looking after people with the condition.
“Looking after older people, especially those with dementia, is challenging but a very rewarding career so I would recommend it to anyone wanting to make a difference to the lives of the most vulnerable in our community.”
Our guide to supporting a loved one with dementia covers many common concerns, including:
- how to get a diagnosis of dementia
- creating safe living environments
- dietary recommendations
- care options
It is designed to help you understand more about dementia, what it means for people living with it, and how you can help support a loved one who has dementia.
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