Think Dementia: How to Support Your Loved One

Dementia news for a loved one is life-altering, but how you support them can profoundly impact how they navigate that journey. Here are our quick tips to "Think Dementia".

Think Dementia: Five Tips to Better Support Someone Living with Dementia

#ThinkDementia is Home Instead’s campaign to raise awareness for dementia care. Today, we want to share five tips that can help you promote a happier and more independent outlook for your loved one.

Think Dementia Tip 1: Keep Communicating

Communication is a great way to engage those suffering from dementia, which can ease the sense of isolation anda loss of self. Here are some pointers to help you communicate, even on those “off” days:

  • Have topics you can discuss regularly. Reminiscing over happy memories is a great way to start an engaging conversation. Consider using memory books, games, and playlists to help you.
  • Create the right environment. Pick a calm, light, quiet, and distraction-free place to start your conversation to promote focus and engagement. If you and your loved one are in a stressful situation, gently calm down and refocus using positive language.
  • Consider your tone and body language. Remember, if someone cannot understand your words, how you present yourself in that conversation is their only clue. Try to be relaxed and positive in your stance and tone.
  • Be prepared to rephrase your questions. If someone missed a social cue or needs help understanding the conversation thread, rephrase your question or response. You don’t necessarily need more basic language, but you do need to create a more direct way to establish what you are asking.
  • Pick up on visual and communication cues. When someone struggles to be understood, it can be easy to isolate themselves to avoid further embarrassment. Be patient and pick up on visual and body language cues that might give you the answer you need. For example, ask someone to show you where they feel in pain if they cannot tell you.
  • Don’t correct or talk over someone with dementia. Imagine your frustration if someone did this to you (even if you aim to help). Instead, give your loved one time to finish their point or ask for help.
  • Be prepared to have the same conversation. It’s only natural that someone who is struggling with memory loss will repeat themselves. In the case of dementia, this can be several times in a day or hour. Learn to answer in the same positive and happy tone you used when you first answered.
  • Make it easier to respond. Breaking down your conversation into easier-to-digest information is helpful for those struggling with focus and comprehension. It also makes it much easier to answer because there’s less complexity in the language needed to engage with you.
  • Use humour. Last but not least, add some humour to the situation. Make it okay to use the wrong word or mispronounce things. Someone is much more likely to try if they think there is no judgment if they respond incorrectly.
elderly mum and daughter sitting and chatting together

Think Dementia Tip 2: Pick Your Battles

There will be times during your journey together when you both feel a sense of friction. It’s a perfectly normal human reaction when two or more people live more closely together after living separately for some time. Mum will have her way of repotting the garden plants; Dad has his preferred routine for bath night—we all have a different approach. Friction occurs when you start butting heads.

Most of the time, choosing to do things their way helps you have the space and authority to institute new routines for the more critical aspects of their care, such as a routine for a new medication, introducing home care, or clinical treatment plans.

Think Dementia Tip 3: Promote Mental and Physical Activity

Research has been carried outinto the positive effects of mental activity in dementia prevention. What we do not know for sure is the effects of cognitive activity on those already with dementia. However, we have found here at Home Instead that clients who came to us with little mental stimulation have seen a significant benefit in outlook and well-being due to mentally stimulating activities, such as recall exercises or social home care visits.

Physical activity also benefits those with dementia by promoting task independence, psychological health, and often related memory function. Simple leg, arm, and chair exercises are great to start with and something our carers institute with the dementia clients we visit.

two older ladies playing chess together

Think Dementia Tip 4: Make Social Interaction Easy

We have already talked about communication, but being social is much more than that. It’s about interaction on a human-to-human level, sometimes without saying a word. And yet, it can be the most overlooked aspect of dementia care.

Encourage activities that you can do together. They could be simple things, like folding the laundry or enjoying tea in the garden. You don’t always need to talk, but when you do, keep things light to encourage task focus.

Encourage activities your loved one can do to help them interact with people outside their home. At Home Instead, we take our clients to dementia cafes or daycare centres where they can meet people and interact. The difference this makes is a huge benefit to their independence and social sense of self.

Most of all, encourage just being together. Loneliness is debilitating. Engagement has a much more positive effect on independence and outlook.

Think Dementia Tip 5: Find the Right Assistive Technology

Another way to help your loved one feel they have a sense of independence is to lean into assistive technology. Tools and gadgets to help Mum or Dad focus, remember and understand.

We wrote a long list ofnational assistive technology contacts for our Ascot, Camberley, and Wokingham Home Instead Hub, and many of those contact points will be helpful for you here in Farnham, Farnborough and Fleet.

To add to that list are those that might be useful in dementia care. Tools like:

  • gas safety values for ovens and hobs
  • safety plugs for baths and sinks to avoid overflow
  • GPS trackers for tracking and tracing
  • fidget widgets for exercise

Consider what, where and how you can use assistive technology to promote independence.

lady talking to a smart speaker in her kitchen

Looking for a deeper level of support through home care? Contact our specialist dementia care team for Farnham, Farnborough and Fleet on 01252 758 716.