Tips to help care for an elderly person with dementia

At Friends of the Elderly, one of the things we pride ourselves on is the personalised care we provide to our residents and clients. Whether dropping in a couple of times a week to one of our day care centres, staying with us for a few weeks on a short respite break, or living with us longer term, we work to make sure the care we provide is tailored to meet the individual’s needs.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a few words of advice from our dementia team which might help you if you’re caring for a loved one and find yourself at a bit of a low ebb. It happens to everyone, but sometimes it’s worth taking a fresh look at what you’re doing to see if some new ideas can help.

We should also say these tips are not meant to take the place of any advice you’ve received from a professional who knows your personal situation.

A dementia diagnosis

The word ‘dementia’ can be a scary and daunting one to hear and, if you are caring for a relative or loved one who is living with dementia, your daily life and routine can be turned upside down.

Dementia is progressive illness that affects cognitive functioning and impacts on daily living activities. It includes a range of varying symptoms depending on the type of dementia diagnosed. Symptoms can include, memory loss, confusion, frustration, difficulty with problem solving, mood swings, tiredness and changes in general behaviour such as  communicating.

In your role as a carer, managing and fulfilling daily tasks which help and support the person you look after will take a lot of your time and energy, so it’s worth knowing some practical tips that can help – both for you and the person you are caring for. Remember, be patient – be flexible – don’t forget about yourself and ask for help if you’re struggling. You’re not an island, friends, family and professional services can help you deal with challenges you may be faced with.

Everyone is different

It’s one of the realities of dementia that as the condition progresses, eventually your loved one will need more help with simple, everyday tasks. This may be upsetting for them, and you.  Always try to support your loved one at their pace and try not to rush them. Keep talking to them by reassuring them by explaining what you are doing.

We have identified some practical tips which we hope will be of help to you.

  • Try to keep a routine. For example, getting up, having breakfast or taking medications at the same time every day.
  • If they are able to, help the person you care for write down a to-do list covering things such as doctor and dentist appointments, shopping lists, birthdays, visits, trips out in a notebook, on a calendar or white board.
  • Think about what the person you are supporting enjoys doing, their favourite pastimes, hobbies and interests. Plan activities to help promote feelings of positivity. This could be doing a jigsaw, listening to their favourite music or audio book, or reading the newspaper.
  • During mealtimes, try not to rush, take it slowly. If your loved one is struggling to identify the food on the plate, it may be worth thinking about purchasing a red coloured plate or bowl, as these can help provide a contrast to the food. Adaptive cutlery may also help if your loved one is finding it difficult to hold a knife or fork due to gripping difficulties or arthritis.

It’s not easy caring for  someone living with dementia, hopefully the tips above will help and try to always :

  • Keep reassuring the person you are caring for
  • Speak calmly comfortingly, encouragingly and reassuringly
  • Let them know you are listening to them, taking on board what they are saying and empathise with how they are feeling
  • Give them space to talk and respond to any questions you may have asked
  • Try your hardest not to say ‘Do you remember when…?’ or ‘Don’t you remember?’ turn this around and reminisce about fun times you have both experienced.

Find out more about the kind of care Friends of the Elderly offer to those with dementia.