With our ageing population and various other factors, dementia is affecting more and more people every year. Millions across the world are living with the disease and its effects, which can also really take an emotional toll on those tasked with caring for a loved one. World Alzheimer’s Day was set up to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s, which results in the vast majority of cases of dementia.
Although many sufferers and their families may find it painful the openly discusses the symptoms and the wider effects of the disease, shared experiences can help everyone to better understand and manage these. Here are just a few tips you may find helpful should you find yourself in the position of looking after a dementia sufferer.
Making journeys can be one of the most stressful things for people with dementia, as it’s easy to lose awareness of where they are or where they’re going. If they can’t remember who they’re travelling with, this can be a scary experience. It’s important to make your journey as simple and familiar as possible.
Try collecting items that your loved one has a strong personal connection with, such as old photographs, ornaments and other possessions that really remind them of their fondest memories. For people suffering with dementia, it’s common for long term memories to last the longest even when short term memory starts to deteriorate, so it can be very reassuring for people to spend time looking through a box of all their most precious memories.
This is also connected to nostalgia and reviving old memories. Memories of music can be very powerful, so in difficult moments it can be very helpful for dementia patients to hear their favourite songs and be reminded of their happiest times.
When people become confused and stressed by the effects of Alzheimer’s, it’s not uncommon for them to lose their interest in eating regularly. Setting meal times that you can stick to and doing everything in a familiar way should help to ease their mind. Again you can use music and familiar items to create a supportive environment.
In many cases, dealing with the effects of dementia can take its toll on friends and family. At the worst moments, everyone involved can get frustrated and angry that they’re not being understood. It’s important to remember everything you know about that person and use it to interpret the meaning they’re trying to convey, even if their words fail them. This will help you to respond in the most helpful way.