Dementia Care at home

Usually the initial point of contact to access care services for those with dementia is either their GP (for healthcare solutions) or Adult Social Care (for most other services). If you are concerned about your persistent forgetfulness – or the memory difficulties of a friend or family member, it is important to consult a GP. He or she can do a simple memory test, a physical examination and order blood tests. They can then refer you to a memory clinic to test your memory in more detail and arrange a brain scan if needed.

The various types of Dementia Care available to you and your carer are likely to involve both NHS services, Adult Social Care and voluntary agencies. Some examples of services and support to help people live as independently as possible with dementia include:

  • specialist day centres;
  • respite care or short breaks;
  • assistive technology and community alarms;
  • home care;
  • meals at home;
  • community equipment;
  • extra care sheltered housing; and
  • carers’ support groups.

There are some simple practical steps to help with memory problems:

  • use a diary and make lists to help you remember appointments;
  • keep your mind active by reading or doing crossword puzzles, Sudokus and other mind exercises;
  • get regular physical exercise; and
  • eat a healthy diet.

Care at home

People with dementia often have problems in new environments and may function better and be more contented in the familiar surroundings of their own home. The person with dementia participates in setting up this plan. If the person is unable to participate, family members can assist in planning care. The person with dementia will respond best to stable care staff who know them well. Continuity of care can be provided by either care agencies or carers employed directly by the person or his or her family. Staff can be employed if the person pays privately or receives a direct payment from Adult Social Care to pay for care.

Family support

If you know someone who is worried about their memory, encourage them to visit their GP. The more support you can give someone, the better life with dementia can be, especially in the early years. Too often people fear dementia and this causes them to avoid people with the condition, making them feel isolated and stigmatised. With the right support, people can live well with the condition and continue to do the things they enjoy for a number of years following diagnosis. Focus on what the person can do, not what they cannot do, help with little errands or with cooking, listen to the person with dementia, and find out more about the condition.

When someone has dementia, they need:

  • reassurance that they are still valued, and that their feelings matter;
  • freedom from as much external stress as possible; and
  • appropriate activities and stimulation to help them to remain alert and motivated for as long as possible.

A person with dementia is not being deliberately difficult: often their behaviour is an attempt to communicate. If you can establish what this is, you can resolve their concerns more quickly. Try to put yourself in their place and understand what they are trying to express and how they might be feeling.

Dementia Friends

People with dementia sometimes need a helping hand to go about their daily lives and feel included in their community. Dementia Friends is giving people an understanding of dementia and the small things they can do that can make a difference to people living with dementia – from helping someone find the right bus to spreading the word about dementia and the explaining the different types of dementia care available.

Dementia Friends want to create a network of a million Dementia Friends across England by 2015. See www.dementiafriends.org.uk for further information.

Respite care

Spouses, partners and relatives who care for a person with dementia are entitled to an assessment and may require a break from their caring responsibilities. This is known as ‘respite care’ and may be a regular break of a few hours a week or a period of a few weeks. It may be planned or be required in an emergency.

Regular respite care might involve the person with dementia attending a day centre or a care worker visiting the person’s home to enable the carer to have a break. If the relative caring for a person wishes to go on holiday or is unable to care because of illness or an emergency a period of respite care may be provided in a care home or a care worker may provide care in the person’s own home.

Specialist dementia day centres

In the earlier stages of dementia, day care support can offer vital help. A good day care service will be able to offer a range of activities and support that will enable the person with dementia to retain skills and remain part of their local community.

Specialist day centres for people with dementia should be organised and run with the needs of people with dementia in mind, aiming to build on their strengths and abilities. Activities will vary but may include outings, entertainment, personal care, meals, hairdressing and support for carers.

Attendance at day centres can be offered from just a few hours a week to a number of days. Contact Adult Social Care or your local Alzheimer’s Society office for more details.

Alzheimer’s Society

This leading charity works to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia. If you have concerns about Alzheimer’s disease or about any other form of dementia, Alzheimer’s Society National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 can provide information, support, guidance and signposting to other appropriate organisations who can offer dementia care.

The Helpline is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday and Saturday and Sunday 10.00am to 4.00pm.