Many people who live with dementia do so within their own home with the help of family and friends. Their home is generally the environment a person with dementia would prefer to live in – as discussed in our article ‘Why dementia care is so much better at home’ – but the success of this is largely dependent upon how knowledgeable and adaptable the person’s support network is.
Our live-in dementia carers support many individuals and families, both through periods of respite or by providing longer-term care. In this article, we’ve collated some of their top tips on how to help someone with dementia successfully at home for as long as possible.
Caring for someone with dementia: Important aspects to focus on
Environment. First and foremost, ensuring the person’s home can meet their needs is vital. Just because it’s their home and is assumed to be a place of familiarity isn’t in itself enough. The symptoms of dementia can affect a person’s understanding of where they are, and their perception of common household items/fixtures and fittings. Read our article, ‘Creating a dementia friendly home’, to understand more about what to do to make the home of a person with dementia a happy and safe environment that will maximise their independence.
Nutrition and hydration. Living with dementia can mean a person’s appetite changes (both eating more and eating less are possibilities), and their ability to remember to drink can also be affected. Many families find supporting a person’s nutrition and hydration difficult. Our top tips include:
• Try to engage the person in food and drink preparation – don’t take over, help them to do things instead.
• Think about a person’s food life story and try to evoke memories by creating meals and drinks that were once enjoyed on holidays or at school.
• Take a sensory approach – the smell of freshly baking bread or percolating coffee can stir taste buds.
• Try stronger tasting food if the person is struggling to enjoy their meals.
• Eating outside can sometimes help to stimulate a person’s appetite.
• A grazing approach may be more helpful than having three large meals a day.
• Try to make eating and drinking a social occasion together.
Our article on nutrition and hydration details more about how our live-in carers support our clients and may provide additional ideas.
Occupation and activity. Being at home and surrounded by domestic tasks to complete and reminders about hobbies (like arts/crafts or gardening) doesn’t automatically mean a person with dementia will feel the motivation to do these things or remember how to do them. Whilst it is tempting to step in and do more and more for a person, especially if they require a lot of assistance, try to plan periods in your day when you can support the person to achieve/accomplish things themselves. For some people these may only be small accomplishments, like making their bed or peeling some potatoes, but it enables the person to continue to contribute in meaningful ways.
Exercise and outdoor living. Supporting the person to continue to exercise in ways they have previously, or by trying new exercises, is vital to enable them to remain as healthy as possible. Exercise is also important to stimulate appetite and improve mood, and it can provide the opportunity to work towards targets they or their healthcare team (if they are following a rehabilitation programme, IE: after a stroke) have set. Exercise may be something as simple as regular walks, or it may involve online or face-to-face classes. Try to aim to get outside as much as possible, whether it’s for exercise or relaxation. It can really help to support good mental health, as we discussed in our article about connecting with nature.
Social engagement and support. Many individuals and their families find that living with dementia can be quite isolating. Ways to combat isolation include:
• Get involved in peer support groups online or face-to-face. For the person with dementia these are primarily through DEEP, Dementia Alliance International, Dementia Diaries and the 3 Nations Dementia Working Group. For family carers, contact Together In Dementia Everyday (TIDE).
• Investigate learning opportunities, especially if you are a family carer. These are provided by organisations including Dementia Carers Count, and through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) including this one from the University of Tasmania.
• You may also be able to access services run by the Alzheimer’s Society in your local area, or Dementia UK either locally or via their Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline.
Sleep. Adequate rest at the end of the day is vital both for the person with dementia and their family carer. Dementia can affect sleep quite severely for some people, with issues including difficulties for the person in orientating to the time of day (for example believing they should be getting up and going to work in the middle of the night), hallucinations, restlessness at night and daytime tiredness. Read our article, ‘Sleeping better when you have dementia’ for more information.
How ENA live-in care can help you and your family
When you are caring for a person with dementia at home, it is important to incorporate periods of respite care to enable family members to continue to care for longer. Our live-in respite care ensures a smooth transition from family carer to live-in carer and vice versa, and enables the person living with dementia to remain settled and happy at home. Respite care periods can be tailored to the needs of individual families, and enable the person with dementia and their family to try live-in care with a view to longer-term professional care at home if/when the need arises.
Find out more about how ENA Care Group could support you or your family by calling 0800 4334 413 or emailing .