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Top tips on making life easier for someone with dementia

We can’t fix dementia. But in small ways we can make the world feel safer and less confusing.

To help them

  • We can suggest to their carers that they keep to familiar habits and routines – washing and dressing, meals, bedtime. On the other hand, if our parents want to do or eat something different, we can all go with the flow.
  • Keep clothes simple – replace laced up shoes with Velcro fastenings, make sure buttons are minimal and easy to manage. If our parents want to wear two or even three shirts, that’s fine, as long as they’re warm and decent.
  • Help them choose food that’s easy to see and handle, and don’t worry about the right cutlery for the right food, even if you’re eating out. Why not use a spoon to eat fish? Although pizza with a spoon is a challenge.
  • It’s good to be respectful whatever our parent’s behaviour, and encourage others to be too. Staff in shops and restaurants aren’t always trained to deal with dementia, so we can let them take the lead from us.
  • We can’t really expect our parent to suddenly want to join in on group outings, lunches or singsongs if they’ve never shown an interest before. On the other hand, they might.
  • It’s immensely helpful to make walking around at their home and yours easy by keeping away from patterns on carpets and wallpapers, and minimising furniture.
  • Big labels work well on everything that seems confusing, from toothpaste to milk.
  • Sticky notes writ large can be put on the fridge for jobs that need to be done or dates of appointments.
  • Enjoyable smells, sounds and feelings can make life feel better. Scented flowers, freshly baked bread, herbs and spices, soothing sounds, a walk in the sand – could all be found pleasurable.
  • On the other hand, it’s best to be aware if too much noise and business are upsetting.
  • This is the toughie – trying not to react angrily to accusations, unreasonable demands or frustrating conversations. They will happen.
  • Sometimes our parents will want stuff done now. We can come to an agreement about when we are ready to do them calmly.

To help you

  • Try not to take it personally when your parent gets angry with you or criticises you.
  • Laugh, rather than shout or cry. Phone a friend if need be. Even take a friend or family member with you when you visit.
  • Look through old photo albums to remember the good times together.
  • Write down all your happy memories of your parent early on and refer back to them on days you can’t remember anything other than the effects of the dementia.
  • Breathe deeply and learn some relaxation techniques.
  • Go for a walk or a run. Lift weights. Relieve stress with exercise.
  • Talk to your family about the stress you feel rather than taking it out on them.

Do you have tips of great things to do to help parents with dementia – or things to avoid? Do give us the benefit of your experience and wisdom in the comments below.

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