Dementia: Six simple ways to make life easier for a loved one with the brain condition

Anchor Hanover is England’s largest not-for-profit provider of care and housing for people in later life. Becky Garwood runs a professional team who provide quality care for the residents.

Here, she shares her top tips on how best to support a family member or partner who has dementia.

1. Tip one

“Memory boxes help people living with dementia to recall fond memories of people and events from the past,” Garwood began.

“These boxes, which contain photos and items that have special meaning for the older person, help conjure up memories that can get a conversation started, and stimulate happy emotions.”

If you’d like to start a memory box, here are a few suggestions on what to place inside:

  • Holiday souvenirs
  • Photos of a special occasion, such as a wedding
  • Ornaments
  • Artwork
  • News clippings
  • Music tapes

When placing photos into the memory box, it’s recommended to caption each one “clearly to further prompt memories”.

Garwood added to put in items that “engage different senses, with different material, smells, sounds and colours”.

However, “it’s best to avoid anything sharp, heavy, or difficult to handle”.

2. Tip two

“The transformative power of music is amazing,” stated Garwood. “It can help people recall certain memories, transporting them back to a favourite place and time, and reconnect them to loved ones.”

People with dementia may suffer from feelings of anxiety, stress, depression and agitation – and understandably so.

Dementia can be a very emotionally challenging disease for everybody involved.

“A playful and active approach to dementia care can help with emotional growth,” Garwood explained.

“It’ll develop trust between you and your loved one who is living with the condition.”

3. Tip three

The third tip suggested by Garwood is to make the most of technological advances.

“We’ve seen first-hand the benefits of using technology to bring people together,” she commented.

“Electronic tablets are proven to be calming, engaging and help stimulate memories for people living with dementia.”

Revealing how Anchor Hanover make the most of technology, she stated they use iPads to connect with their residents.

They tailor activities, such as card games and photo galleries, to suit people’s interests and life experiences.

Garwood advises taking a tablet out with you to keep a loved one with the brain disease engaged during the journey.

The application of Skype, Zoom or FaceTime has also been invaluable for people with dementia to stay connected with their family and reduce feelings of loneliness.

Tips four, fix and six

Dancing has physical and emotional health benefits, which can “restore emotional and physical closeness”.

“There will be frustrations,” Garwood admitted with candour. “But remembering the individual and taking time to understand and respond to their feelings is important.”

As well as attending to the needs of a loved one with the disease, it’s just as important to perform self-care.

Due to coronavirus, this is a “particularly challenging time for people living with dementia”.

This is why it’s “especially important to provide reassurance” to a loved on with dementia, as people go about their day wearing face masks.

“Remember to greet people by name as a prompt and smile with your eyes as facial expressions will be particularly hard to read,” Garwood concluded.

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