Unreasonable? - neighbours
Odd - forgotten memories
Scary - frightened husband
Dementia can be a difficult time for both the person living with the condition and their loved ones. Knowing how best to engage with and help a relative or friend with dementia to maintain their quality of life can be complicated.
Joanne Laverty, from the not-for-profit care and housing provider, Anchor, is an expert in shaping tailored dementia care that is person-centred. Here is her advice on how to help people live well with dementia.
Understand what your loved one enjoys and how they like to be interacted with. It’s important to build everything around that knowledge. You can’t support people with dementia as a homogenous group – everyone is different and will be experiencing dementia in their own way.
Include your loved one in activities they enjoyed before they were diagnosed – baking, craft making, watching sport, etc. It’ll help them feel involved and empower them to continue doing the activities they once enjoyed.
iPads and other tablets are proven to have a substantial benefit for people living with dementia*. They can calm, engage and aid reminiscence and ensure people stay connected to family members.
Set the screen brightness to maximum, use a case where possible to help the iPad stand on its own, increase the screen contrast and enlarge the text. All of these small tweaks can help your relative use the tablet more easily.
For one-to-one use try apps like YouTube, FlowerGarden, My Reef 3D, Google Street View and Skype. If you’re in a group try Pictionary and Sound Guess. YouTube and Google Street View are great apps to aid reminiscence, try looking up songs and videos from different eras, as well as old addresses.
Keeping a box full of items from your loved one's past that might jog memories and feelings is a great way to help them remember and reminisce. Looking through albums full of old photos and watching family videos can help with reminiscence.
For people living with dementia, older memories can be more accessible than recent memories, so taking a trip down memory lane with them is invaluable.
Being outside provides the opportunity to exercise and have fresh air, it also helps to relieve tension and anxiety. Take a walk, or just sit outside when the weather lets you!
People living with dementia may repeat themselves and become confused. Acknowledge what they’re saying, and talk to them calmly to avoid increasing their anxiety levels.
Colour contrasts are a quick and effective way to help items stand out from their surroundings. Painting walls, doors and furniture in different colours all help to reduce confusion. Clear signs also help when identifying different rooms or furnishings.
Don't make food that is all beige, for example, and split up similar colours where possible, i.e. separate potatoes and chicken with some green vegetables.
This will help people living with dementia recognise that there are different foods on their plate.
*Anchor and the University of Worcester have published the results of a study looking at how iPads can improve quality of life for people with dementia.
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