Stuart Wright has worked in the health and social care industry for more than 30 years, starting his journey working with people with learning disabilities and behavioural issues before specialising in dementia care.
Stuart is currently implementing and developing a human rights framework and standard for people living with dementia. Recognising that people need educating about dementia care, Stuart wanted to share his expertise with friends and family of people caring for someone with dementia.
1. It’s important not to become ‘the carer’ too early after diagnosis
Being diagnosed with a dementia isn’t just life changing for the person living with dementia but for close friends and family too. Quite often, people with dementia may have had it for some time before they receive a professional diagnosis. After diagnosis, you will want to help your loved one in their day-to-day routine, however there’s a risk that this can happen too quickly, deskilling the person before necessary. It’s important to take a step back from the situation, assess it and talk to your loved one and professionals about what’s going to happen next. You don’t necessarily need to manage household chores, bills and diaries straight away.
2. Get a plan in place, as hard as it may be
Putting a long-term plan in place is important. This could include arranging for someone to help look after your loved one on a full or part time basis, such as arranging home care visits from Brunelcare Community Carers or going into a care home that specialises in dementia care. It can be difficult to think so far ahead but it’s important to have everyone's best interests at heart and to include your loved one in this conversation if you can. As well as discussing care plans, it’s advised to consider lasting powers of attorneys for finance, health and welfare and will writing, so you have your legal matters in place too. You can find more information about this on the Office of the Public Guardian website.
3. Empower the person
As dementia progresses, you can help your loved one feel in control, even if there are several day-to-day activities they find challenging. Creating a calendar, or a to-do list with your loved one, detailing things they do routinely will enable them to remain independent for longer. Ask your loved one questions like, “what have you got on today?” This can enable them to feel in control of their day and remain independent. Plotting things on the calendar, such as household chores or social events, can give people living with dementia a sense of freedom.
4. Introduce familiar smells, tastes and sounds
Positive connections with your loved ones can be achieved by introducing familiar smells, tastes and sounds that can make your loved ones feel at ease. People living with dementia often experience the world more emotionally than logically, and it is on that emotional level we can seek to connect with the person. Eating something your loved one remembers from their childhood, listening to music they have previously enjoyed or smelling a perfume they loved in their 50’s speaks directly to the more intact long term memory creating positive feelings.
5. Go with it
People sometimes describe dementia as a ‘bubble’, sometimes it can be helpful to get into the ‘bubble’ with your loved one. Ask open questions, but be aware that too many questions can be overwhelming. Use plenty of eye contact and try not to correct or disagree with them, this could make them feel embarrassed, frustrated, or confused.
6. Take time for you
When caring for someone with dementia it’s important to take time out for yourself. Memory Cafes are places where people caring for loved ones living with dementia can go to talk about how they’re feeling and coping. If possible, and if it’s something you are comfortable with, surround yourself with a support network of people you trust so they can help or listen if necessary. There may be other services you can access, speak to a local Dementia Navigator, or find out if there is a local Admiral Nurse. The Alzheimer’s Society also run local day care opportunities and their website provides fact sheets, there are many different types of dementia and understanding the diagnosis can be helpful so you can prepare as best you can.
Stuart runs regular dementia information sessions at Brunelcare’s Robinson House care home in Bristol, the sessions are open to the community. The next sessions will be held on Saturday 26th October, one at 11am and one at 1:30pm. All sessions are free but you must book your place. To book, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 01275 544 452
Read more about our dementia information sessions here.
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