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How to help a relative with dementia

5th October 2015

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

Learning that a relative has been diagnosed with dementia can be tough, but with the right help and support, the future can be more than manageable. While initially it can seem like a lot to take on board, this guide will offer easy-to-introduce solutions, which will enable you to make life much easier for your relative.

Adapting the home

In the early stages of dementia, it is usually possible for the patient to continue living in his/her home independently, with just a few inexpensive adjustments. As the disorder affects memory, items in the home such as clocks displaying the days of the week and pill boxes with time compartments can be really useful.

Dementia can affect balance and reaction times too, so you may wish to adapt your relative’s home further, taking all the necessary precautions to avoid trips and falls. Walk-in showers can take the dangers out of bathing, while rise and recline chairs can reduce the risks of falls when moving to sit or stand.

When making larger decisions, such as whether the cost of a stairlift is necessary for independent living, we advise being on hand to ensure your relative is weighing up all the options, and is able to ask for your opinion should they need it.

Make the most of available support

There are multiple services which can be utilised by older people, such as those with dementia. For example, Meals on Wheels or laundry services can help to ease the pressure of everyday tasks that may have become difficult.

You may wish to join the Alzheimer’s Society, where you can reach out to people who understand your situation, and ask for further information about the disease. Getting advice from carers can also give you more of an insight into what to expect, should you wish to continue caring for your relative for the foreseeable future, with carers’ groups available for those who have already committed.

Sorting responsibilities

Up until now, your relative has probably been responsible for their own bills, but this may soon have to change. Remembering to make payments requires much organisation, but this can be helped by arranging direct debits so these are automatically taken from your relative’s bank account. Another step you could take to avoid anything being cut off would be to contact all the service providers, in order to inform them that your relative has dementia and give an alternative contact number.

Although this might seem insensitive right now, it is wise to encourage your relative to make a will while they still have the mental capacity to do so. This may also help to put their mind at rest, if they are likely to worry about things like this in future. It is Free Will Months in October if you are thinking of doing this sooner rather than later.

Speak with sensitivity

While easier said than done, it is essential that you talk to those with dementia with care and caution, making sure not to upset or confuse them unnecessarily. Repetition or persistence can be frustrating for you, but your relative is most likely unaware of this, meaning a short response may be taken to heart. Make it light-hearted and help your relative to finish their sentences if it’s a story you’ve heard before, or begin to leave evidence of things that you’ve done for them in sight, such as a receipt for the shopping.

It is common for those with dementia to find it difficult to remember things, which can be testing, especially when things such as important dates are missed. Instead of giving your relative a telling off, leave helpful reminders on post-it notes, or call before an appointment for a gentle nudge in future.

Planning future care

It can sometimes be necessary for someone with dementia to need more care than it is possible to give in their own home. When this time comes, one of your options is to place your relative in a care home, where they will have support on hand 24/7. Age UK can help you find a suitable residence for your relative, with more advice on selecting a care home available here.

Advanced dementia can mean that they require moving and lifting by other persons, which may become too much for just one person to carry out, and could cause injury if not conducted properly. Qualified nurses and carers will have plenty of experience when it comes to looking after those with dementia, meaning your relative will be placed in safe hands, putting your mind at rest.

Image Credit: Jonas Boni, Dvortygirl, Erich Ferdinand, Abbeyfield Kent (flickr.com)