10 tips for caring for someone with dementia

10 tips for caring for someone with dementia

There are currently 800,000 people with various forms of dementia in the UK, a figure set to rise to over a million by 2021. If you care for a loved one with the disease, these top ten caring tips could help.

1. Structure the day  

Put some structure into each day, like going for a walk, or to the shops. This will make the day feel like it has more purpose and the exercise will help to maintain a healthy sleep pattern.

2. Don't book in appointments

Don’t give too much notice of a visit or appointment. People with dementia get anxious and confused about appointments and it can be very stressful, so a “just in time” approach helps them not to fret for hours or days ahead.

3. Investigate reasons for anxiety

Seek out reasons for anxiety. General anxious behaviour is often experienced by dementia sufferers for a number of reasons, but the person with dementia will often not be able to explain how they feel, or why. Check some of the basic things first. Are they feeling too hot, too cold, hungry, thirsty, in pain or constipated? Just having these things in your mind might help you to pick up small clues and help you to alleviate their distress.

4. Remove mirrors   

Mirrors can be distressing for people with dementia. They may think of themselves as still being in their early twenties and not recognise the person they can see. This in turn can lead to quite disturbing behaviour. If possible, remove the mirrors to lessen potential confusion and distress.

5. Keep busy

Involve a person with dementia with simple household tasks, to help them feel useful and active – jobs such as folding tea towels and cloths, dusting a piece of furniture, brushing out flower pots or other outdoor activities.

6. Be mindful that sufferers are not always in control of their behaviour

Try to remember that some behaviour is beyond their conscious control  - e.g. sexual remarks, shouting, swearing and accusing people of stealing. Try to reassure them that things are OK and take steps to distract them, maybe by moving them into another room to provide a new set of stimuli. However, do bear in mind that people with dementia can be, and often are, victims of crime, so make sure no theft has actually taken place before you assume they are making false accusations.

7. Eat together

Don’t be put off giving someone with dementia food and drink if they say they are not hungry or thirsty. The condition sometimes makes it hard for people with dementia to recognise hunger pains or thirst. Try to eat together to increase their social interaction. People who don’t recognise their own need for food will tend to eat with others and enjoy the meal experience.

8. Try not to always correct

Let your relative or friend with dementia lead the conversation and don’t be tempted to correct small details in the accuracy of the story. It is much better to enjoy a general flow of conversation, rather than frustrate them by correcting them constantly.

9. Make the nights cosy

Close the curtains before it gets dark. As the light levels go down, some people can become upset and agitated. Try closing the curtains a little earlier and making the room cheerful with lamps to distract attention from the dark evenings.

10. Say 'yes' to help

Always accept any offer of help. Friends and family will often offer to help, but they may not know what kind of help is needed, or what they can do.