Guardian Carers Feature on BBC News London

How do you care for someone with dementia

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Dementia affects more than 850,000 people in the UK alone. This figure keeps growing and is estimated to reach 2 million people by 2051. You may be wondering, what is the best way to care for someone with dementia? Guardian Carers is here to help. Every year, we help people with dementia enhance their lives and live happier lives at home.

Caring for someone with dementia may feel daunting at times, but it is not as challenging as you may think. Whether you are a professional carer or you are a family carer looking after a family member with dementia, having the right knowledge and the right attitude towards the disease will ensure you can meet the challenge.

Educating yourself about dementia is one of the key steps which will help you to care well for someone with dementia. Having a positive attitude and a realistic approach will help you as well. Dementia differs from person to person and it can often surprise you, but being prepared will make your life easier as well as enhance the life of the person you are caring for.

As dementia progresses, it not only affects a person’s memory but also their ability to express themselves. Knowing how to upgrade your relationship with someone with dementia and learning new ways to communicate with them in a way that will make you understood is essential. Below, you will find some tips on communicating with someone with dementia as well as tips on managing their dementia and caring for them.

Communicating with someone with dementia

  • If you cannot understand what the person is saying or what they are saying doesn’t make immediate sense to you, try to look for the meaning behind the words.
  • When you are communicating with someone with dementia, speak slowly and clearly. You should use simple language and short sentences.
  • It’s best to keep things simple. Go for questions that require a simple ‘yes or ‘no’ answer.
  • Even if you think the person with dementia is mistaken, try to not get into an argument with them and don’t test their memory by asking them what they did earlier. By simply listening to them instead of correcting them, you will make them feel acknowledged and listened to.
  • You may or may not have heard of memory books. Whether you are a professional carer or a family member, creating a memory book will help the person with dementia remember the special times and put them at ease. You can include photos that represent happy memories such as holidays, weddings or birthdays. You can use the memory book in times when the person with dementia is feeling distressed. It will help them calm down and reflect on happier times.

Managing someone’s dementia

Dementia can be managed and its progression can be slowed down. Whether you are a professional carer or a family carer, you should know that there are ways in which you can prompt the memory of someone with dementia and slow down their cognitive decline.

Communicating effectively with a person with dementia is key in offering them the perfect care. Communication is essential in helping them maintain a healthy mind and helping to prompt their memory. Using the tips mentioned above will help you care better for someone with dementia.

More than this, talking about their past such as evoking memories from their childhood or other memorable experiences will help them remember and get excited to talk about these memories. Remember that despite the fact that their short-term memory is very bad, their long-term memory can be easily accessed with such triggers.

Another tip is to remember that emotion is deeply linked with memories. Apart from creating a ‘memory book’ or a ‘life story’, you can also use music to help them remember events from their past. Creating a playlist with some of their favourite songs will help them recall memorable life events and calm them down when they may be under distress.

Lastly, physical health is deeply tied to dementia. Someone with dementia may have the tendency to become complacent. In extreme cases, this can lead to them losing their will to live. Too much time left to their own devices in front of the television will only further deteriorate their condition. It’s essential to engage them in a form of exercise on a daily basis. This can be anything from a light walk in the park to 15 minutes of gymnastics at home.

Tips for caring for someone with dementia

By now, you should be more confident in your ability to care for someone with dementia. Keep reading for some easy and essential tips which will help you do better in your role and help the person with dementia live a happier life.

  • Patience, patience, patience. This is key when caring for someone with dementia. Do not get annoyed or angry, but try to understand that they are seeing the world in a completely different way than you are.
  • Listen. We cannot stress this enough. People with dementia often get distressed or angry because they feel like they are not understood. If they are struggling with words, help them out or help them form sentences, but don’t rush them.
  • Make eye contact. Making eye contact with them while they are talking to you will make them feel that you are truly listening and they will be more willing to communicate with you.
  • Use body language. We use body language in our day-to-day lives and it shouldn’t be any different when we are speaking to someone with dementia. Using hand gestures or facial expressions will help you be understood better.
  • Avoid talking about their bad memory. Saying things such as “Do you remember?” or “Did you forget?” is not something they will like.

These simple tips should help you care better for people with dementia. If you wish to continue to deliver quality care for people with dementia we recommend continuing to educate yourself, as dementia is a progressive disease and more research is being unveiled each day. You can read more about dementia and home care on our blog. To enquire with Guardian Carers, you can call 0207 183 1395.

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