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Mealtimes can be very confusing for someone with dementia. It can also be very frustrating for you when someone refuses to eat what you have cooked, even though you know they have not eaten today. Try to remember it's not their fault: dementia is a disease.

Sometimes one of these simple strategies may help:

. Eat together to make meals more enjoyable and to enable the person to copy what you do

. Serve fingers foods so they don't need to use a fork

. Keep the place setting simple. Use a plain colour plate or bowl with a contrasting mat. Avoid patterns

. Limit distractions (turn the TV off or down)

. Only serve one or two foods at a time, eg. potatoes first and meat afterwards

. Small amounts of food are often less daunting than a plateful so try serving half as much as usual

. Make meals look attractive. For example, sandwiches look really boring so liven them up by cutting into triangles or strips, taking the crust off or leaving them open

People with dementia often forget to eat or believe they have already eaten, so gentle encouragement can work wonders.

Sometimes it helps to serve a small drink with a meal, but avoid drinks immediately beforehand as they can make people feel full.

Above all, be aware of your own tone and body language. People will not eat if they feel frightened or intimidated. Sit down with the person, smile, make eye contact and keep your sentences short.

If nothing works, don't be afraid to stop trying for a while. Let the pressure come off and try again later, with a genuine smile of encouragement

 

 

Use short sentences

A person with dementia may not be able to process a multi-part sentence, such as “Come in & sit down; let’s have a cup of tea”.

If you feel someone is not following you, try to say one thing at a time: “Hello! Come in”, then “Let’s sit down” & then “Let’s have a drink”.

Make eye contact

A person with dementia may find it easier to focus and understand what you’re saying if you make eye contact first.

Make sure there are no distractions such as the television etc.

Try to avoid asking questions

People with dementia often struggle to answer the questions we ask all the time, such as:

  • How are you ?
  • Did your daughter bring you ?
  • You take one sugar, don’t you ?

It’s often more effective to tell people things (in a nice way), such as:

  • You look well
  • I saw your daughter brought you here. She’s lovely
  • Here’s your tea with 1 sugar, just how you like it

It may seem you’re reducing the person’s choices, but it can be very stressful to be asked questions you never know the answers to. If you can make some of the decisions for them, by maybe offering two types of food you know they like, you can reduce the stress and improve the moment.

Offer Simple Choices

You can support people to make their own decisions by making the choices very simple:

  • “would you like a ham sandwich or a cheese sandwich ?”
  • Are you going to wear the blue shirt or the green shirt ?

Again, you are restricting the choices available, but since you know the person you’re looking after you will only offer things they would choose themselves.

Having too many options may add stress, prevent the person feeling in control and will often result in a negative answer such as “I’m not hungry” or “I’m not getting dressed today”.

Respond Gently

People living with dementia often experience a different reality than we do. A lady may ask where her mother is, or say she needs to collect the kids from school. She may look in the mirror and talk to her reflection as though it’s her mother.

Often this may be an indication of the memories the lady can access easily. She may find it easier to access the memories from 60 years ago than the ones from today.

Try talking to the lady about her mother or her children. Asking questions about the past can give her chance to explore the memories she does have and can be very rewarding.

Try asking about her childhood; her bedroom; her parents; school; university; jobs; hobbies; pets; meeting her husband; courting; getting married; favourite recipes… the list of questions she may enjoy answering is endless.

Never tell the person that her mother has passed away. If she has forgotten there is no point in reminding her and it will probably be very upsetting.

Try not to argue

It's easy to become frustrated and angry with someone who has dementia, especially when you’re close to them. When they tell you they’ve already eaten or that they had a shower this morning it is hard to go along with them when you know it isn’t true.

Try to remember that dementia is a physical disease – it actually changes brain function. They aren’t being deliberately difficult, they’re telling you what they believe to be true. There is no point in arguing.

Next time, try to find a way to approach the subject indirectly. Serve the meal without asking whether they’re hungry; turn the shower on & offer to help remove their socks; apologise for forgetting to run the shower earlier.

Using your imagination to avoid confrontation can produce amazing results, so be creative.

Spending time being angry and arguing in dementia is not worth it.

Ignoring the Symptoms won’t make them go away

Denying you have a problem is a natural and understandable response when you suspect you may be in the early stages of dementia.

No-one wants to develop dementia and everyone has heard stories of people with the disease. It’s a big step to admit you have the disease and people often put it off as they just don’t want to know.

While it’s true that there’s no cure for dementia, there are often things that can be done when the symptoms start. Often, it’s not dementia at all: stress, urine infections, depression and many other “fixable” problems can cause the same symptoms as dementia.

Even if the diagnosis is dementia, the drug treatments that are available will often be more effective in the early stages.

Bear in mind also that many people with dementia can carry on with their normal lives for months or even years by making simple changes: lists and calendars to help them remember things; simplifying the food they buy so it’s easy to prepare; paying bills by Direct Debit and organising home deliveries for food and medication.

Power of Attorney

Make sure you have a Power of Attorney in place. It’s much easier to obtain a Power of Attorney before dementia gets too advanced and it gives the family or a trusted person the ability and right to act in the best interests of the person with dementia.

Get quotes from different solicitors as prices can vary widely. It is possible to download the forms & fill them in yourself, but it’s very easy to get it wrong and then you have to start again and pay another fee.

Don’t struggle alone

People are often reluctant to ask for help. If your spouse develops dementia, the marriage ceremony words “in sickness and in health” make people feel they should be able to cope. If it’s your parent there is often a feeling that your parent looked after you & now you need to look after them.

Often people don’t want anyone else to know that their spouse or parent has dementia.

As the dementia progresses, the constant worry and stress can take its toll and the healthy person often starts to become ill. It will not help the person you’re looking after if you become ill and can no longer look after them.

Having someone else take on the role of (for example) getting your parent up, washed & dressed may feel like a defeat but there really is no stigma in asking for help. If they were healthy, your spouse or parent would not want the pressure to fall on you.

There are many organisations who provide advice and/or practical help and organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society are well aware of the difficulties of caring for someone on your own.

If you need advice, call the Alzheimer’s Society on 0330 333 0804 or call Home Instead Senior Care on 01344 233147 for free advice.

 

Every year, people in the UK lose upwards of £9 billion to fraud (BILLION!!). Horrifically, the average age of the victims is 74, largely because older people are at home all day & are more likely to answer the landline and have time to talk.

There are simple rules that will help keep you safe:

. Never give out personal information to strangers over the phone

. Don't give strangers access to your computer 

. Never give your PIN number to anyone, even if they are dressed as a policeman

. Never give your password to anyone, even if they say they work for a bank

. Don't worry about being rude to people who ring you out of the blue - just hang up

. Never send money to claim a prize

. Never buy things at the door

- Make sure you're registered with the Telephone Preference Service. It's free and it will help cut down the number of calls you receive. Call 0345 070 0707 to register.

If something makes you feel uncomfortable, just hang up. You don't need to give information to anyone. If they are genuine, they will find a better way to get in touch.

Never get into conversation with someone who calls you out of the blue. You could easily tell them something like; "My nephew always sorts out my computer problems", but then their next call might start "Your nephew asked me to call...". This is much more likely to make you think it's a genuine call. Don't get into conversation - just hang up.

Remember that the people contacting you with these fraudulent deals are criminals, and many of them are very clever. This is their job & they spend all day thinking up new ideas so if you think you may have been fallen for a scam, DON'T BE EMBARRASSED.

Call the police immediately on 101 or speak to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

As we grow older, it makes sense to prepare so we can continue to live in our own homes for as long as possible. No-one wants to think about it but, for example, how would you cope if you couldn’t manage stairs any more ?

Some things to consider:

Do you have double glazing and central heating ?

Do you have enough insulation ?

Is the roof in good repair ?

Is the room you prefer to be in easy to heat ?

 

If you couldn’t manage the stairs anymore;

Do you have a downstairs room that would make a good bedroom ?

Is there a downstairs toilet you could have a wash in ?

If there isn’t a suitable room, is your staircase suitable for a stair lift ?

 

There are companies who will help you move to a more suitable home or help you organise the one you have.

Bear in mind that it’s much easier to make changes while you are still physically fit and able and have access to a car.

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Mrs T - Camberley