Written by Gurleen Khaira
With 50 million people around the world living with dementia, 537,097 in the UK alone, the majority of us will know someone suffering from the condition (Alzeimer’s Research UK,2019). This can be a parent, a sibling or a friend, and you may be the main carer for the patient. You will notice that the patient will start to feel stressed, anxious and scared as they begin to forget simple things and find it difficult to follow conversations. Caring for a dementia patient goes beyond medical care. So, how can you help a loved one with dementia?
Dementia Friendly Home
Dementia patients often find it difficult to remember where items are placed. So simple things like labeling cupboards and drawers can make it easier for them to find what they need, which can help them feel more independent. You should also take the physical environment into consideration. Make sure there is good natural lighting by opening curtains, and eliminate reflections which may confuse the patient. This will make it easier for the patient to navigate themselves around their home and can avoid accidents. Moreover, unnecessary background noise like the TV/radio should also be turned off, especially if the dementia patient is wearing a hearing-aid. This is because, these sounds will be intensified by the hearing-aid, and the patient will have more, unnecessary, information to process which can make it more difficult to concentrate. Dementia can influence how people see colour, so in terms of interiors, make sure you select contrasting colours, ie paint the doors and banisters in a contrasting colour to make them easier to see. Lastly, it is important to have dementia friendly household items like telephones and clocks with large numbers. This makes it easier for the patient to use these items, allowing for minimal disruption to their normal day-to-day routine (NHS, 2018)
Dementia can make it difficult for patients to follow conversations and understand what you are saying. Therefore, it is important that you remain patient and use simple words/sentences that the patient can understand. Try to be empathetic, and see the situation from the patient's point of view, who may become frustrated if they find it difficult to explain something. To prevent this from happening, look out for gestures and facial expressions as the patient may try to communicate non-verbally. Maintaining eye contact can also help to retain the patients focus. Moreover, to help the patient remember and talk about fond memories, you can make a memory book together of key events like weddings and birthdays (Age UK, 2019)
Assist with Eating/Drinking
Your diet is a crucial element of your health. It is not surprising to know that having a healthy diet, especially for dementia patients, is vital. However, maintaining a healthy diet for dementia patients can prove to be difficult. This is because patients often forget what foods they like, and may refuse to eat certain meals. They also may not drink enough water as they do not realise that they are thirsty, which can lead to more health problems like headaches or a `UTI. Firstly, it is beneficial to remember that the patient is not doing any of this deliberately and to be patient. Make healthy meals that you know the patient likes in smaller proportions and offer more finger food if they find it difficult to use utensils. Make sure to allocate sufficient time for meals, which can also help to create a daily routine (NHS, 2018)
Dementia should not halt a person's life. Therefore, doing activities the patient likes and socialising can help the patient be happier and communicate more. Simple things like watching an old movie or going out for a coffee can make a huge difference by giving the patient something to look forward to. Also, staying active is very important, so going for walks or joining a fitness and health class for the elderly can aid the patient in being mentally and physically healthier (nidirect, 2019)
How can MindMate help?
MindMate gives it’s users access to lots of healthy recipes. This can be a fun activity to do with the patient, who can also choose which recipe they would like to make whilst having a nutritional meal. The app also offers a variety of workouts for different fitness levels which can help the patient be physically healthy. Moreover, the app allows the patient to keep a personal diary about themselves where they can store information about their medications, food and sleep. As the patient completes different activities, the app provides insights to help the patient track their progress. Lastly, since dementia patients often find it difficult to remember simple tasks, the app will send them reminders to take their medicine and remind them of other activities they have to do. The MIndMate app ultimately aims to make the life of dementia patients easier.
Download the MindMate app here apple.co/2ol36ob