Living with dementia 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 Services (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 support available to you and your carer are likely to involve NHS services,
Adult Services 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, Sudoku and other mind
exercises;

• get regular physical exercise; and

• eat a healthy diet.

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 those with the condition, making
them feel isolated and stigmatised. With the right support, the person with dementia 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.

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.

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.

Care and support needs are assessed as explained on page 8 and a care plan is drawn
up. 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 Services to pay for care (discussed on page 8).

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 a just a few hours a week to a number of days.
Contact Adult Services on 0845 603 7630 (Essex), 01702 215008 (Southend-on-Sea), or
your local Alzheimer’s Society office for moredetails, see ‘Useful local contacts’ on page 106.
Alzheimer’s Society

This leading charity works to improve the quality of life of people affected by 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. The Helpline is usually open from 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday and Saturday and Sunday 10.00am to 4.00pm.