Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia
Receiving a Dementia diagnosis can seem very final, but many people go on to live long, fulfilling lives after diagnosis so need the support of friends and family to overcome the frustrations that the condition can cause so they can live the fullest lives possible.

Everybody is different and will experience Dementia differently and, as time goes on, individuals with Dementia will face a unique set of challenges.

Whilst a Dementia diagnosis may feel like a tipping point, it’s crucial to remember that people are the same person at their core as they were before their diagnosis. They should be treated the same as always, whilst at the same time recognising their limitations and making adaptations as their condition progresses. It is human nature to want to continue contributing in life so people with Dementia should be given the opportunity to continue doing the things they enjoy.

There are many simple ways to support a person with Dementia to minimise the challenges they face, for example:

Keep routines and habits going as much as possible to give a feeling of comfort and control. Sustaining routines minimises the feelings of confusion associated with Dementia and maintains a feeling of security and stability.

Simplify daily tasks such as getting dressed, eating or drinking, cooking or moving around the house. For example, keep clothing simple (e.g. Velcro instead of laces, not too many buttons, lay clothes out in a pile in the order of dressing), and minimise patterns and designs in furnishings and décor, as these can affect people with dementia. Ensure that there is good lighting so that it’s easy to get around the house safely.

Minimise choices. Offering too many choices can lead to confusion, so it’s advisable to minimise choices, where possible, to minimise potential frustration.

Try to offer support without appearing to take over. It is important that people with Dementia retain as much independence as possible without putting themselves or others at risk. Nobody wants to feel that they have handed over control over their own life to somebody else entirely so individuals should be permitted to self-determine in as far as this is feasible. Often, helping the individual do a task by giving clear directions, rather than doing it for them, makes it possible for the person to continue doing the task themselves for longer.

Work out how best to communicate based on the needs of the individual. Everybody is different, but some communication tips include:

  • speaking slowly and clearly, if the person finds verbal communication difficult and focusing on non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions and gestures;
  • maintaining eye contact;
  • keeping other distractions (e.g. background noise) to a minimum;
  • avoiding asking too many direct questions.

People with Dementia may well take longer to perform certain tasks and shouldn’t be hurried or put under pressure, wherever possible. It is important that the people supporting them remain patient and provide reassurance and encouragement. A person with Dementia may forget practical details, such as the name of a visitor or the day/time they were visited, but they won’t forget how that person made them feel. So, if they are left feeling happy and safe, they will associate this feeling with them when they next see them, which can be very comforting.

Try to gain an understanding of Dementia – it is only really possible to empathise with a person’s situation once you can appreciate how they are truly feeling. Many of our staff are Dementia Friends and undergo regular training in how to support people with Dementia, but anyone can become a Dementia Friend (including you) in order to learn more about what it’s like to live with Dementia.

Simply visit the Dementia Friends website to find out how or, to find out more about the warning signs of Dementia, see our blog or visit the Alzheimer’s Society website.

Posted on: November 24, 2016

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