Dementia Care UK

Supporting Those With Dementia

Living with dementia or supporting a loved one with dementia can be daunting and it can be difficult to know what support is available and how to help. Here is FraserCare's insightful guide on how to manage and support someone with Dementia.

There is no one blog or one article that can completely cover the topic of dementia as there is still so much that is unknown and is a disease in that it affects everyone differently...

The education surrounding dementia in the UK is poor, with people often only being aware of the disease after they or a someone close to them develops a dementia. The NHS is wonderful and I’m certainly glad we have it, but NHS support for dementia is also poor.   I have been with clients several times when they have received a diagnosis from their consultant, been handed a leaflet and there ends their support from the NHS.

Dementia is also unique disease in that it is not the medical community (in my opinion) that learns the most about coping with and supporting people with dementia but the social care community (care workers, social care nurses, managers &social workers).

Each person’s dementia will affect them differently, there may be personality changes, mood swings and memory loss, all of this can be very distressing not only for the patient but also a relative or friend supporting them.

Diagnosis & Planning:
A diagnosis will usually be made following a referral from your GP by a hospital consultant, you may be required to go for further tests for confirmation.    As  everyone is different it will be very difficult for your consultant to give you  a specific time frame on the development of symptoms or even what symptoms will develop. In general, most people can live well with dementia for years with a good plan, support and coping strategy.

It is a good idea to make an advanced care plan, detailing your wishes for your future care when you can no longer make decisions for yourself. You can also make someone you trust your lasting power of attorney over finances and/or health & welfare. A lasting power of attorney can only make decisions about your health & welfare once you are no longer able to make a specific decision, something known as Mental Capacity.

It’s important that you are vocal about your wishes for the future and if you are supporting a loved one being realistic on what support you can provide and for how long.   For example, “promise me you’ll never put me in a care home” is a promise that a loved one may not be able to keep and if this promise is eventually broken can generate powerful feelings of guilt.

Be honest with one another; what support can be expected from your partner, friends or family? For some people they will have always planned to support their spouse, parent or friend until the end providing personal care and support with all daily tasks. For others, this kind of support is not something they can provide due to preference, lifestyle or location.

Have a look at the different types of support available and what criteria must be fulfilled to want them. For example, many people will want to stay in their own home for as long as possible so it might be an idea to have a chat with some home care agencies ahead of time to see what services they offer and the rough cost.

In order for care givers (spouses, families friends) to care for their loved one, they will also need support so why not check out your local dementia support groups and respite (short term) care services?

Coping With Symptoms: 
Everyone’s symptoms will be different    and some people will develop more “problematic” symptoms. One of the most common things I see is carers correcting the person living with dementia, forcing them to come into their world instead of going into there’s.

For example, "no mum! You already told us about that! No mum you grew up in London, you lived with dad in Coventry!" Carers will often “correct” the person they are supporting telling them they have gotten details about their own lives incorrect. Many carers get frustrated by these symptoms of forgetfulness, or mixed truths. By doing this the carer may make the person living with dementia more confused, angry, scared or made to feel embarrassed or childish.

My advice would be to just go with it! If it is not going to affect their immediate safety or the activity to be completed there is no need to correct someone living with dementia. If a dementia patient whom is 95 years old tells me they’re waiting for their mother I won’t say “no you can’t be your mother died years ago” I will say something like “how is she? I haven’t seen her in ages!”

Staying Safe:

It’s very important that those living with dementia do as much for themselves for as long as possible, including socialising, cooking, cleaning, laundry as well as maintaining their own personal hygiene. Due to forgetfulness or being unable to process how to do a task appropriately or completely people living with dementia may become dangerous to themselves in their own home or when they are in the community.

Often an accident may trigger a reassessment of how they complete potentially risky tasks such as cooking. These days you can get taps that will automatically shut off or ovens that do the same. A fire wellbeing assessment can be booked with the local fire department and they can make recommendations for fire safety in the home.

It may also become necessary for dangerous items such as sharp knives and medication to be locked away or put out of reach, but this should only be done if it is necessary, after all accidents happen to all of us occasionally!

Assisted Technology: 
Those supporting someone with dementia can often get anxious about their welfare especially if they live alone and/or go out alone. You can now get discreet trackers or alerts if certain tasks are performed in the home. For example, a tracker can be put in a person’s handbag or wallet in case they get lost or a motion sensor can be attached to a kettle. That way you know they’re OK as they’re making themselves a cup of tea!

Looking After Your Mental Health:
Dementia can often cause feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression for people who live with the disease as well as their carers. Remember to talk to your GP, they may be able to prescribe medication or alternative therapies for depression and anxiety.  Get talking, sign up with a local dementia support group and don’t forget to talk to friends and family about how you are feeling.

Getting Professional Care: 
Carers (unpaid family members spouses & friends)    often need to get in professional paid help. This may start with a cleaner and then progress to care workers (paid carers) who can help with personal hygiene, food preparation, companionship and medication administration on a visiting basis.

Carers can often find it difficult to hand things over to paid care workers and many feel very guilty for doing so, however if you are a carer and you need help, you must get it for the sake of your own health.

The advanced care plan you made can be very helpful to decide what care to get, to help with deciding what help to get you can read our blog What Care Is The Best For Me?

For further info:

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