I feel sometimes that dementia is a bit of a taboo subject and people are almost scared to mention it, or scared to talk about it.
Maybe this is because it is misunderstood, maybe it’s because there is really no cure yet, or maybe it’s because we just want to pretend it’s not happening. The reality is that in 2017 dementia was revealed to be the biggest killer in England and Wales. For the first time, more people were dying of dementia than heart disease.
Here are some statistics from Alzheimers Research UK that help put this condition into context:
We need to unite against dementia now
What I want to achieve is greater awareness of this condition and to help families understand how to make the most of what can be a challenging situation, because practical advice is sometimes hard to find.
We care for a number of clients with dementia and we love doing it. We spend a lot of time seeking to understand our clients and ensure we are working with them in a way that maximises their wellbeing.
We are dedicated to providing the best standard of dementia care to our clients and have signed up to the Dementia Pledge to demonstrate our commitment.
Here are some practical ideas that we would truly recommend as a family member, coping with a relative living with dementia.
Dementia takes you back in time.
So someone with Dementia may literally feel like they are living in the past, whether that’s in war times when they were evacuated or when they were working full time.
Some of the time it may seem that they are fully in the present moment, whilst other times they will literally be transported back to an old, familiar place.
For some people living with dementia, they will experience what is called ‘sundowning’, where they may feel more confused and agitated in the late afternoon or early evening. This could be because this used to be a busy time of day for them, e.g. collecting the children from school or finishing work.
The best way to deal with this is to try to structure their day so that they are doing something meaningful at this time. Introducing some light exercise or some exposure to the sunlight can help.
What was your loved one’s passion in the past?
Was it baking or reading, knitting or going to church?
Whatever their favourite pastime was in the past, chances are they still enjoy it and they are good at it so seek out ways for them to do these things. This could be having a carer or family member taking them to church every Sunday, or giving them a creative project that you do with them.
Every human being wants to feel they have a purpose in life and by structuring their week with meaningful activities that include community engagement can be a great way to create positive energy for that person.
There are a number of specialist dementia day centres and events that can have a really positive impact on someone, for example, the Alzheimer’s Society Singing for the Brain and Tapestry’s Dementia Day Care Centre.
The unfortunate reality of dementia is that the short-term memory deteriorates.
In real terms, this means that someone with dementia will forget people’s names, place names and what happened at recent events.
Typical adult conversation is often focused on what’s going on now, how people are doing, remembering short-term facts, etc. However, the reality is that these kinds of conversations that we find simple can just confuse people with dementia and lead to a lot of repetition and can cause frustration for family members.
Although you may hear the same story more than once, it is actually fascinating to see that each and every time it is told, there may be another thing that comes to light and you learn something new about your loved one.
It really is fascinating what does get remembered and it is important to cherish these memories.
Because your loved one has probably got more clearer memories of the past than the present, it can be great to dust off the old photos, recipes, favourite books, etc.
It’s great to spend time talking about these and reminiscing or learning about how things used to be.
You could even try to capture stories about their life and make a family history book to share with future generations.
Finally and probably most importantly, whatever approach the family has, always seek to make your loved one with dementia feel incredible.
With dementia, although the facts may be blurry and difficult to remember, your loved one’s emotions are heightened and they will always remember how you made them feel.
You don’t need to feel like you are being dishonest if you are going along with the way they see the world.
I will leave you with this quote which is extremely apt for people living with dementia. We need to ensure that we offer the best possible care for people with dementia today, and research into new treatments or a cure for tomorrow.
Only together, we can beat it.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
Get in touch with your local Radfield Home Care office today and find out more about the support we offer and the difference we can make.