Practical Steps for Living with Dementia
Two thirds of people with Dementia live at home. Ensuring your loved one has the right support, whether that’s dropping in to check on them or helping them make home adaptations, can extend the time they’re able to enjoy living independently.
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Dementia, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here, we’ll explore the practical steps you can take to make living with Dementia more manageable.
Know What Support You’re Entitled To
Before you try and take on everything yourself, it’s worth exploring the support that’s out there for Dementia patients and their families. Your local GP, Memory Clinic or Adult Social Services will be able to help you organise a Community Care Assessment and (if relevant) Carer’s Assessment. In the early stages, these can recommend adjustments to the home to support independent living.
Depending on your situation, and whether as patient or carer you face many demands on your time (such as a dependent family or a full time job), you may also be entitled to services like respite care or day care.
Carers Trust is a good place to look for support if you need respite care, or to find emergency care if you’re suddenly unable to provide it.
Even if you or your loved one’s Dementia is in the early stages, it’s helpful to make home adaptations so the process doesn’t become overwhelming later down the line.
Making Things Easy to Find
Most of the home adaptations that help a person with Dementia don’t require any spending. In case of memory loss, make sure everything you use on a daily basis is in an easy to reach, clearly labelled cupboard. Leaving doors to different rooms open can help an easily disoriented person find their way around the house.
It’s helpful to leave memory jogging reminders for things likely to be forgotten, such as a note to remember keys by the front door or to turn off the tap in the bathroom.
To avoid forgetfulness leading to more serious problems, ensure the house is fitted with gas and smoke alarms. It’s also possible to buy flood detectors for earlier warnings that taps might have been left on upstairs.
If you or your loved one takes medication, using a pill dispenser with day or time sections can help keep on track. You can even buy pill dispensers with an alarm that reminds you when it’s time to take the next one.
To maintain general safety at home and reduce the risk of a fall, there are some simple steps to follow. Installing grab bars in the bathroom and investing in a shower stool helps avoid slips. If you aren’t sure where a grab bar would be most effective, suction cup varieties can be installed without tools and moved around to find the best place.
Similarly, bed rails can prevent a loved one falling out of bed during the night and are a useful aid for getting up in the morning. It’s also important to ensure there is a clear path through each room – watch out for rugs or objects at ground level that could be trip hazards.
There are a range of mobility aids to support individuals in getting around inside and outside. A cane is a handy tool to support balance. For those relying heavily on support, quad cans or two-handed walkers are the most stable. Over time, an alternative to assisted living may be moving the bedroom downstairs in the family home, so consider if this is an option for your family.
If a loved one living alone is a real worry, it may be worth investing in a pendant alarm, to ensure they can contact someone in the event of a fall. Bear in mind that this might not suit everyone, so introduce assistive devices with tact, and remember that it’s ultimately a personal decision.
A few simple tweaks to daily routines can be a great help to a person living with Dementia. You could organise for a daily paper to be delivered, which acts as a reminder of the date and is an enjoyable pastime. Keeping a diary of events, and having this on display, is a useful reminder of upcoming commitments.
Set up direct debits for any payments that need to be made regularly to avoid forgetting to pay them. You could also arrange for a loved one to make telephone reminders of important dates or events to stay on track.
All these changes won’t take place overnight, and it’s important to be aware of the disorienting impact that making too many changes at once can have. At all stages, keep your loved one informed of what’s happening, and consult them before making adaptations to their home, even if you think they may not be able to understand. Because, ultimately, you want to do what’s best for them.
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