Information for Carers
We know that supporting someone with dementia may be very challenging at times. However, there are ways you can respond to new and different situations. Below we have listed some tips that have worked for other carers.
Establish routines but keep things normal. A routine can decrease the decisions you will need to make and bring order and structure into an otherwise confused daily life. A routine may come to represent security for the person with dementia. Although a routine can be helpful, it is important to keep things as normal as possible. Treat the person as you did before the disease as much as their changing condition will allow
Support the person’s independence. It is essential that the person remains independent as long as possible. It helps to maintain their self respect and decreases the burden on you
Help the person maintain dignity. Remember that the person you care for is still an individual with feelings. What you and others say and do can be disturbing. Avoid talking about the person’s condition in their presence without involving them in the conversation
Avoid confrontation as any type of conflict causes unnecessary stress on you and the person with dementia. Avoid drawing attention to failure and maintain a calm composure. Becoming upset can only make the situation worse. Easy to say but remember it is the disease, not the person’s, fault
Safety is Important
Loss of physical co-ordination and memory increase the chance of injury, so you should make your home as safe as possible.
Try to make things simple for the person with dementia. Don’t offer too many choices. For example, in the early stages of the disease, the person may be able to dress themselves but as the disease progresses you will need to guide them and, eventually, clothe the person yourself.
Sense of Humour
Maintain a sense of humour when you can. Laugh with the person with dementia. Humour can be a great stress reliever.
Health & Fitness
Encourage physical fitness and health. In many cases, this can help maintain the person’s existing physical and mental abilities for a time. Appropriate exercise depends on the person’s condition. Consult your GP or Occupational Therapist for advice.
Help make the best of a person’s existing abilities. Planned activities can enhance a person’s sense of dignity and self-worth by giving purpose and meaning to life. A person who was once a homemaker, gardener, doctor or business executive may gain satisfaction from maintaining abilities related to their previous profession. Remember, however, that because dementia is progressive, the person’s likes, dislikes and abilities may change over time. This will require you to be observant and flexible in planning activities.
As the disease progresses, communication between you and the person can become more difficult. It may be helpful if you:
- Make sure the person’s senses are not impaired, such as eyesight and hearing
- Speak clearly, slowly, face to face and at eye level
- Show love and warmth by showing affection, if this is comfortable for the person
- Pay attention to the person’s body language – people whose verbal language is impaired will communicate through non-verbal means
- Be aware of your own body language
- Make sure you have the person’s attention before speaking
Use Memory Aids
In the early stages of dementia, memory aids can help the person to remember, and can help prevent confusion. For example, it may be helpful to display large clearly-labelled pictures of relatives so the person can keep track of who is who and label doors of rooms with words and bright distinctive colours.
For advice on how people with dementia can stay healthy, manage their memory loss, deal with their feelings and much more, please read the section Information for those with dementia.
Did you know?
Dementia knows no economic bounds. Although each person will experience dementia in their own way, eventually those affected are unable to care for themselves and need help with all aspects of daily life.