Dementia Awareness Week: 5 Ways You Can Help
Dementia Awareness Week is aimed at raising awareness about dementia and how you can help and support people living with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society is asking everyone to unite against dementia to learn more about how to understand and manage some of the problems associated with the condition. Here are some strategies that will help if you are supporting someone who lives with dementia.
Learn More About Dementia
The more you know and understand about how dementia affects a person, the easier it becomes to support them in the way they need and manage any difficult situations. Contrary to commonly held beliefs, dementia affects far more than just memory. People can become less inhibited and make remarks that they would normally have kept to themselves or act in inappropriate ways. They may have increasing difficulty in expressing themselves, have problems finding the word they want or feel depressed and unable to make simple decisions. Once you understand that these changes are caused by the disease, it becomes easier to deal with them.
Change the Subject
People who have dementia frequently become upset or frustrated – sometimes when they are unable to complete a task. Distracting them from whatever is upsetting them can alleviate the situation, and people experienced in dementia care will know that just offering someone a drink or asking them about a favourite subject can be enough to deflect their thoughts from the problem.
Have a Regular Routine
People living with dementia are often happier when everything is familiar. This includes their environment, the people around them and their daily routine, and it explains why specialist dementia care homes aim to keep routines consistent as far as possible so that residents know what is going to happen and do not become anxious or confused.
Encourage Daily Exercise
Exercise is important for physical health, but it also helps with psychological well-being, especially for people with dementia. Physical benefits of regular exercise include a reduced risk of falls, because balance is improved and muscles and bones are strengthened. The health of the cardiovascular system is improved and blood pressure can be reduced, which is an important factor in vascular dementia. Many private care homes include regular exercise sessions in their weekly activity programmes, because it is known to have such benefits. The mood of people living with dementia can be improved by regular exercise, and it can help to prevent the restlessness known as sundowning that frequently occurs in late afternoon or evening when people with dementia become very unsettled.
Enjoy the Good Times
Dementia affects people differently at different times, and when the person is feeling good they can achieve much more than on a “bad day”. Whether it is care home residents or someone living in their own home, encourage them to enjoy the activities they like, meeting friends or just making the most of their happy times. Even if they are unable to remember what they have done afterwards, they will still enjoy the moment, and that will give them an improved quality of life.
Good dementia care is about more than simply meeting a person’s physical needs: it is about empowering them to live as well as they possibly can.