Oct 05, 2022
2 mins read
We can’t fix dementia yet, although there have been some major breakthroughs recently, such as the experimental Alzheimer’s drug that could slow cognitive and functional decline.
That’s a great hope for the future, but for those of us supporting family and friends in the here and now, what can we do to make day-to-day living just a little bit easier?
These suggestions can help the world feel a little safer and less confusing.
Ask all carers to keep to familiar habits and routines – washing and dressing, meals, bedtime – if that reduces anxiety. But be prepared to work spontaneously if your loved one is asking for change one day rather than insist on rigid routines.
Make dressing simple. You can swap laces for Velcro-type fastenings. Zips or over-the-head clothes can be easier than buttons. And again let your loved one choose what to wear if they want to. Two shirts or wearing slippers to the shops may seem odd, but does that matter, as long as they’re warm and decent?
Enabling choice in food and drink is important too. Those with dementia tend to lose interest in eating and drinking, so it’s worth helping them choose food that’s tasty and easy to see and handle. Don’t worry too much about the right cutlery for the right food, even if you’re eating out, unless eating is proving impossible.
Shopping can feel a little awkward sometimes when you’re out with someone living with dementia. Many staff in shops and restaurants have been trained to understand dementia and how to be respectful in its presence. But if they seem to be struggling, you can always attempt to take the lead in conversations.
To reduce confusion at home, it’s a good idea to reduce patterns on walls and floors, and minimise the amount of furniture to negotiate. While visual stimulants can increase anxiety, filling the home with enjoyable sounds and smells, such as fresh flowers or bread, can be smoothing. Some sound can be helpful, but watch out for stress if there’s too much noise.
Labelling can aid independence, even of basic items, such as milk or the remote control.
There are numerous ways to jog a memory for tasks to be done. Sticky notes on the fridge might help for appointments, while there are many electronic solutions to making sure pills are taken at the right time every day.
As well as practical solutions, your relationships are important. Those with dementia can present as difficult, refusing to listen to reason, even unkind. It’s unlikely that it’s intentional, but if you find yourself getting frustrated, try not to get angry with your loved one or yourself. If you can, take yourself out of the situation for a while, and draw breath. Sticky notes writ large can be put on the fridge for jobs that need to be done or dates of appointments.
You can find many more articles about living with dementia on our blog www.whentheygetolder.co.uk