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How To Understand Dementia Care

Posted by Mike Phipps on December 10, 2018

Two women and a nurse sitting down drinking tea or coffee

When caring for someone with dementia, whether they have been recently diagnosed or if they are going through the later stages, understanding dementia is the first steps to caring for someone who is living with it.

Understanding dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term that is used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders that affect the brain. While there are many different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common. Some people can be diagnosed with a combination of different types however each person will experience dementia in their own way.  Dementia can have an emotional, physical and psychological impact on the person and their family. People have been known to live for 20 years with dementia and so understanding the condition and the stages of it will help you to better your support and care and can also help if you have been recently diagnosed with dementia yourself.

Support after diagnosis

If you have been recently diagnosed, getting the right support and guidance can help your independence and ever-changing circumstances while living with dementia. Many people find different types of support, whether it be from a family member, health professional, local support group, online forums and adaptations to the home, can all help.

For a family member, caring for someone who has recently been diagnosed can be a stressful time for all affected. As new symptoms and challenges emerge it is important to treat the person with as much respect as you would have previous to the illness. With dementia, people can tend to see the illness and can often forget about the person.

Supporting someone you know with dementia

Take a ‘person-centered’ approach

It is important to make a ‘person-centred approach’ when caring for someone with dementia as this puts their needs and desires first, keeping them as the focus and not the condition, treating them with respect as the unique individual they are. No matter which stage of dementia the person is at, this approach has been shown in studies to reduce agitation and aggression and can later significantly reduce needing hospital treatment or medication which can result from aggressive behaviour. With good results from this approach, it can make the person who is living with dementia feel calm and happy, which also affects the people caring for them and the surrounding family. It important to remember not to reprimand yourself if things can’t always be done the way that they would prefer.

When living with dementia, it is important that the person feels valued for who they are now as well as who they were in the past. Taking a break from daily tasks to simply sit down with a brew and have a chat might not seem like much, but spending this time with someone who has dementia means they continue doing the things they enjoy as part of everyday life.

There are many things everyone around can do to help, such as:

  • Take the time to listen and engage in conversation.
  • Show affection as you would have previously.
  • Spend time to do activities relating to memories, such as building a memory book.
  • Be flexible and don't retaliate to abnormal behaviour.

For someone living with dementia, it can sometimes affect the way the person perceives the objects and environment around them. Patterns in carpets might be seen as moving snakes or insects if they are swirls or feature a dotty pattern. If you notice someone is experiencing difficulty with something like this, be patient and try to understand why they might be acting this way. Body language is also incredibly important if they are feeling confused or upset, a friendly face and a big smile can be reassuring. See our guide to understanding dementia behaviour for more information.

Support from care & nursing staff

When leaving your loved one in the hands of a carer ensure the carer is aware of their daily routine and preferences. This includes the way they wear their hair, what food they like to eat and also how they like to dress and their favourite hobbies and music. Too much change to a usual routine can make them become confused which will cause the person to feel uneasy or scared.

The benefits of dementia care aids

When a person is diagnosed with dementia, once simple daily tasks can become more difficult over time and through the various stages. That's why we have put together our very own section of dementia aids to help both the carer and the user.

As dementia is a progressive condition, finding the right products to help daily life for the person living with dementia means making sure it is appropriate for the individual.

With dementia aids, it is worth checking if the item is appropriate for the intended user by making sure of a few factors:

  •    It is easy to operate for the user.
  •    If the product is safe (this is indicated by a CE Kitemark meaning it conforms to European safety standards).
  •    Most dementia products are VAT exempt
  •    The user will gain value from the product (if the user is in the late stages of dementia they may not have much need for some items)

Always seek professional advice if you are unsure if a product will be suitable.

Using colour association around the home

One of the simplest things to remember is a colour. By assigning a certain colour to a certain room it can reassure the person that they are in the right room. For example, by changing regular toilet items such as the seat or a grab rail to a bright colour like red, the user starts to associate the toilet with that colour making daily routines and habits become familiar.

This is a simple solution that can offer the individual greater independence whether it is in their own home or at a place of care.

Reminisce, don't "remember"

Reminiscence and memory products can be great for re-living the past and familiar events for the person with dementia as they can offer comfort and happiness. Products like the Talking Photo Album is a fantastic gift for someone with dementia as it provides a look back on happy memories and offers a voice recording option for a personal read through or their favourite music.

Orientation & signage

For a person living with dementia, navigating a home they have lived in for years can become difficult. Memory loss, in particular, can cause a person to feel lost at home, while new surroundings in a care home can also cause disorientation and stress. Our dementia signs have been designed to stand out and be easily remembered. Bright colours can help to easily identify different rooms within the home. For example, it is important for them to be able to find the bathroom independently. By colour coordinating the bathroom with the colour blue, the user can feel assured that they are in the bathroom whenever they see blue.

Signage can be a vital safety aid within a care home. By displaying clear signage you can prevent those with poor orientation from walking into rooms alone which could cause harm such as the kitchen or bathroom.

Important facts to remember about dementia:

  • Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain and should not be considered as ‘part of the natural ageing process’.
  • There are more factors to dementia and Alzheimer’s than just memory loss.
  • It is possible to live well with the condition as the person is more than their diagnosis.

This is just a short guide to some of our dementia care products and tips and advice for family carers. Please always seek professional medical advice if you are unsure of anything when caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

More support and information

DEMENTIA MATTERS: - Post-diagnosis support


CARERS TRUST: - Finding help & care


WHEN THEY GET OLDER: - Caring for early onset dementia