5 Tips to Better Support a Loved one with Dementia
Dementia currently affects nearly half a million people in Australia, many of whom require ongoing support and care. According to Dementia Australia, there are currently almost 1.6 million Australians involved in the care of someone living with dementia. To mark Dementia Action Week (19-25th of September 2022), World Alzheimer's Day (21st September 2022) and Dementia Australia’s campaign ‘A little support makes a big difference’, we have gathered our top 5 tips to assist you in supporting a loved one with dementia.
What is Dementia?
According to Dementia Australia, Dementia is a collection of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. While dementia can affect brain functions such as thinking, memory and behaviour, no two people will experience dementia in the same way. Although brain function is usually affected enough to interfere with an individual’s normal social and working life, it is important to note that people with dementia often lead active and fulfilling lives for many years after their diagnosis.
Whether your loved one was recently diagnosed, or has been living with dementia for some time, we hope you can benefit from the following suggestions to better support and care for a loved one with dementia.
Learn How to Better Communicate With People Living With Dementia
Caring for a loved one with dementia can at times be challenging. Interactions with your loved one may have changed and communicating can sometimes prove difficult. One way to make things easier on both you and your loved one is to learn how to effectively communicate with a person with dementia.
Body language plays a big role in interpersonal communication, particularly with dementia patients. Be aware of your facial expressions and body movements while you talk, ensuring you express yourself in a relaxed, respectful and caring manner. Likewise, people with dementia may at times have trouble communicating verbally. If that happens, look out for their non-verbal cues and try to ask questions with yes or no answers to make it easier for them to respond.
In addition, Dementia Australia emphasises giving your loved one space and listening as key factors of effective communication with a person with dementia. The organisation has the following tips for offering space and listening effectively:
When and how should you offer people with dementia space?
Talking: make sure to listen and give your loved one time to respond.
Planning: ask your loved one directly what they want to do and involve them in the process when planning an activity for them.
Problem solving/Tasks: ask your loved one if they would like assistance, but give them plenty of time to solve problems or perform tasks independently.
Not responding: be patient and give them plenty of time to respond. Try not to rush them or speak on heir behalf.
How can you listen more effectively?
Be in the moment: remove distractions such as your phone or tun off the TV.
Don’t make judgements: try to see the world from your loved one’s perspective and show empathy in your response.
Show you are listening: body language is important here - maintain eye contact throughout the conversation, nod encouragingly and lean in. This will help your loved one feel more comfortable and confident while speaking.
Listen to learn: Ask open-ended questions and show you are interested to encourage meaningful conversations.
Create a Dementia-Friendly Home Environment
For some patients, dementia can cause disorientation, mobility issues and confusion - even in a recognisable environment such as the home. Although you should try not to move items around the house or make changes too often as it may further disorient your loved one, there are a number of small adjustments you can make to ensure your loved one’s home is a safe space for them:
Move or hide tripping hazards such as electrical cords, rugs or obscurely shaped furniture.
Keep cleaning and any other potentially dangerous products out of reach.
Use signage at eye level around the house and consider using symbols or photographs to indicate the function of each room.
Use larger switches for lights.
Use a whiteboard or calendar with post-it notes and reminders.
Consider if installing hand-rails in and outside of the home would aid in maintaining your loved one’s independence.
Adopt Technological Aids
There are many devices that can assist and provide comfort for your loved one around home, whether it be to locate items, keep track of medications or prompt memories. The key is to involve your loved one when deciding which products to use or buy and to introduce them in the early stages of dementia.
Some products you may wish to consider include:
Wireless key and item locators
Medication reminders/ prompters
Flood detectors and plugs
Digital (and talking) photo books
Don’t forget to look after yourself
When caring for a loved one with dementia, it is important to take some time out to protect your own mental and physical health. The more stressed, worn out and run down you are, the harder it will be to offer support to your loved one. Whether it be receiving emotional support, having family step up to look after your own household’s tasks, talking with friends or taking some time out to do something you love, your needs and wellbeing are important and shouldn’t be forgotten. If providing support for your loved one becomes too overwhelming, Just For U Care can offer respite or ongoing in-home dementia care services to help you.
If your loved one is adamant they want to remain at home, but caring for them is becoming too overwhelming for you, support is available from trusted in-home care providers such as Just For U Care. We offer respite care to give you a break or ongoing care from as little as two hours each week to 24/7 full-time care.
People with dementia have unique needs. As such, our specialist carers are trained to deliver personalised in-home support with an approach centred on respect and compassion for those affected by dementia and memory loss. Your loved one’s comfort, quality of life and wellbeing are our top priorities. We can provide assistance with personal care, mobility support, medication management, transport, meal preparation, companionship or any other activity of daily living so your loved one will continue to feel confident and safe at home.
To learn more about Just For U Care's services and to see how we can assist you or your loved one, please Contact Us.