Supporting a loved one with dementia

If your loved one has recently received a diagnosis of dementia, it can present a whole range of feelings for both them and you. It is completely ok and natural to feel an array of emotions – from anger, tearfulness, frustration, sadness, guilt, loss and fear.  These are common reactions and it would be good to try and ensure you give yourself time to manage these feelings.

When discussing dementia, we often hear the term ‘living well with dementia’ and there are conversations for and against the use of this description. There are many questions around whether this is an accurate depiction because of the challenges that dementia presents for both the person and those around them. However, I do completely believe that with small changes, increased understanding and additional support, it can be a more positive experience for you and them.

Learn as much as you can about the condition

There is some really fantastic content from Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia UK, Alzheimer’s Research UK and the NHS on what dementia is, the symptoms, support available and how to manage everyday life. This is accessible on their websites and in hard copy, so you can have the information to hand. I would also highly recommend the following books:

  • June Andrews – Dementia: The One-Stop Guide
  • Oliver James – Contented Dementia
  • Wendy Mitchell – Somebody I used to know

These publications are both informative for loved ones, as well as offering insight into the condition from people living with dementia.

Conversation is caring

When trying to initiate conversation with your loved one, often making physical contact with them by touching their arm or hand could be a good signal that you want to start a conversation.

Conversation really is caring and involvement in tasks that use all the senses can be great in sparking interest and initiating conversation. There are many ways to stimulate interaction with your loved one, such as tasting cold ice cream, feeling different textures and fabrics, hand massages or listening to music together. So, if verbal communication presents challenges then it’s good to try different ways of communicating so that you both keep your personal connection.

Maintain your health and well-being

It can sound easier than done, however, as the saying goes “You cannot pour from an empty cup” and it really is true. Your physical and mental wellbeing is a huge priority and it can be really difficult to support another person when you are not feeling so good.

You may often find yourself putting your loved ones needs first and ignoring your own, but looking after yourself is vital.

You could try writing lists as they can be useful to break down the steps needed for each decision or task that needs to be made. This might also help to reduce stress in decision-making.

Accept support

 Accepting support is really important. It can understandably be extremely difficult as a spouse, child or any other family member in using support, but it will help in offering any level of care to your loved one. Admiral Nurses at Dementia UK are real-life angels, as are Dementia Adviser’s at Alzheimer’s Society who are there to offer invaluable support.

Plan ahead

It can often act as a comfort to plan ahead and there are some areas to look into such as:

  • Creating a life story book or memory boxes with your loved one
  • Looking into a Carer’s Assessment
  • Looking into Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)
  • Making your loved one’s home dementia-friendly

Many people also find it useful to look at care homes available that provide respite should your loved one need it now or in the future.

There are some outstanding care homes registered with the CQC (Care Quality Commission) which you can check out here http://www.carehome.co.uk

Have a look out for the highest CQC ratings and also their activity schedules – this is a real telling sign on how the home supports the residents’ well-being.

x Rebecca x

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