In Their World: Understanding and Supporting People with Dementia

Supporting someone you love that has dementia can be challenging and emotionally demanding. We have put together some advice to help you navigate your caregiving journey.

Educate yourself

Learn about dementia, its symptoms, and how it progresses. That way you can understand the challenges individuals with dementia face and the best ways to communicate and engage with them. This knowledge will help you provide informed and effective support.

Read books and publications: Look for reputable books and publications written by experts in the field of dementia.

There are some great online courses: Many platforms offer online courses that cover various aspects of dementia. Websites such as Age UK and Dementia Friends are bursting with information to change the way we think about dementia and transform they way people act, talk and think about the condition.

Maintain a familiar and structured environment

People with dementia often struggle with memory loss and confusion, and a routine provides a sense of structure and predictability in their daily lives. Knowing what to expect and when helps create a familiar and comfortable environment, reducing anxiety and stress.

Those with dementia will find comfort in familiar surroundings. So it is best to minimize changes to their living space and daily routine as much as possible. So creating a structured environment by establishing consistent routines for meals, activities, and bedtime will reduce confusion and anxiety. Here at Home Instead Taunton and South West, we ensure this happens by having the same Care Professionals visit the same time each week for a minimum of an hour.

Communication is key

Communication can become challenging for individuals with dementia. So use simple, clear language and speak slowly. Ask simple questions: Instead of asking open-ended questions, which can be overwhelming, ask questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” or provide limited choices. For example, instead of asking, “What would you like to eat?” you can ask, “Would you like soup or sandwich?”

Listen actively and maintain eye contact and give them time to process information and respond. Non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, and touch can convey your intentions and emotions. Maintain eye contact, smile, and use gentle touch if appropriate.

Avoid arguing or correcting them if they make mistakes or have trouble remembering. Instead, focus on empathetic listening and validating their feelings. If the person says something that is inaccurate or confusing, avoid correcting them. Instead, try to focus on the emotions behind their words and respond to those feelings.

Helping with daily tasks

As dementia progresses, individuals may struggle with everyday activities like dressing, bathing, or cooking so it’s important to offer your assistance while respecting their autonomy and dignity.

Simplify tasks by breaking them into smaller, manageable steps, and provide gentle guidance as needed. For example, if they need to get dressed, lay out one piece of clothing at a time and provide gentle verbal cues for each step.

Encourage independence when possible, as it helps maintain their sense of purpose.

Sometimes bringing in memory aids such as calendars, clocks, and written notes to assist with memory and help them remember important information.

Local Support

There is a great support network in Taunton and Wellington for those suffering with dementia and their families.

A particular favourite of ours is Reminiscence Learning. They are an award winning charity based in Wellington specialising in Dementia care, activity and reminiscence. They run a series of activity sessions and training workshops that are educational, yet fun and practical.

A favourite workshop with our clients and their Care Professionals is ‘Funday Friday’. With tea and cake provided, they complete a variety of activities to cater for those with dementia, ranging from singing, quizzes and exercise. You will find them located in Wellington.

Remember, each person with dementia is unique, so it’s essential to observe and learn what  work best for them. At Home Instead it’s important to us to understanding their background, interests, and preferences and this can help us tailor our approach and care.