If you are caring for someone with dementia, or a relative has just been diagnosed with dementia, this article can help you.

Guest Blog by Stuart Wright, Dementia Care Lead at Brunelcare

Why it’s important not to become ‘the carer’ too early after diagnosis

Being diagnosed with a dementia isn’t just life changing for the person living with dementia but for close friends and family too. Surprisingly, people with a dementia may have been living with the disease for some time before professional diagnosis.

After diagnosis, it’s obvious that you’ll want to help your loved one in their day-to-day routine, however there’s a huge risk that this can happen too quickly, deskilling the person before necessary. It’s important to take a step back from the situation, assess it and talk to your loved one and professionals about what’s going to happen next. Don’t simply start taking over the household chores, bills and arranging diaries.

Get a plan in place, as hard as it may be

Putting a long-term plan in place for when the person living with dementia becomes too unwell to care for themselves is also a must. This could include arranging for someone to look after them full or part time, arranging home care visits from Brunelcare Community Carers or going into a care home that caters to people living with dementia. It may be scary to think so far ahead but it’s very important to have everyone’s best interests at heart. Here could also be a good time to discuss care plans,  lasting powers of attorneys for Finance, Health and Welfare, (see Office of the Public Guardian), and will executors.

Help empower the person

As dementia progresses, it’s a good idea to help the person living with dementia feel in control, even if there are several day-to-day activities they may find challenging. Creating a calendar, almost like a to do list, with all the things they do routinely, for your loved one will enable them to remain independent for longer.

Ask your loved one, “what have you got on today?” This can enable them to feel in control of their day and remain independent. Plotting things on the calendar such as, taking the bins out, hoovering, shopping or putting the washing on etc, can give people living with dementia a sense of freedom. 

Go with it…

It’s never easy seeing a loved one with dementia but it can be helped by getting into their ‘bubble’ with them, ask open questions, but be aware that too many questions can be overwhelming, and give eye contact. If your loved one says the sky is red then go with it. Try not to correct or disagree with them, this could make them feel embarrassed, frustrated, or confused.

Introduce familiar smells, tastes and sounds

Positive connections with your loved ones can be achieved by introducing familiar smells, tastes and sounds that can make your loved ones feel at ease. People living with dementia often experience the world more emotionally than logically, and it is on that emotional level we can seek to connect with the person. Eating something your loved one remembers from their childhood, listening to music they have previously enjoyed or smelling a perfume they loved in their 50’s speaks directly to the more intact long term memory creating positive feelings.

Taking time for you

When caring for someone with dementia it’s important to take time out for yourself. There are Memory Cafes where people caring for people living with dementia go to talk about how they’re feeling and coping with the life changing event. There may be other services you can access, speak to a local Dementia Navigator, or find out if there is a local Admiral Nurse.

The Alzheimers Society also run local day care opportunities and their website provides lots of fact sheets, there are many different types of dementia and understanding the diagnosis can be helpful as it is not just about memory loss. It’s very important to look after yourself when looking after someone with dementia.