In the UK, someone develops dementia every three minutes. Caring for those suffering with the disease can be challenging, and when that someone is a parent or friend, its effects are all the more distressing. With Dementia Action Week having just come to an end (May 15th to May 21st) Plutus Health CEO, Martin Ricketts has created a list of small actions that can make a world of a difference for those living with dementia.
As simple as it seems, making conversation can make a big difference for someone living with dementia. The disease can be lonely and isolating, so regular discussions can stop them from feeling alone, scared or worried. Having a chat with someone is a good way of naturally triggering memories too. It’s important to remain patient when engaging in conversation with someone who has dementia, as they might lose their train of thought, or a change in mood might mean they don’t feel like talking altogether. Keep persevering, as you’ll never realise just how much good you’ll be doing.
Turn on some music
Music can often recall memories for people with dementia. Listening to their favourite song, or even new ones you think they might like can improve their mood and trigger memories. While people with dementia can become stressed quite easily, listening to music can help them unwind too.
Be a good listener
Similar to making a conversation, listening to them and lending them an open ear to express how they feel can help. Despite this seeming like nothing it can go a long way. Don’t try and interrupt, just let them talk for a while.
Be clear with your message
Use simple words and sentences, speaking slowly and in a reassuring tone. If your loved one doesn’t understand the first time, try not to raise your voice and use the same wording to repeat your message or question. Use the names of people and places instead of pronouns (he, she, they) or abbreviations.
Make activities more manageable
Break down tasks into a series of steps. Help your loved one with steps they can no longer accomplish alone, but be sure to encourage them to do what they can. Remind them of the steps they forget, and use visual cues.
Keep a sense of humor
Laughter is a great medicine so use humour whenever possible. People with dementia often retain their social skills and are usually delighted to laugh along with you.
Find out more about dementia
The more you know about their disease the better. Most people think that dementia is just a disease where you lose your memory but in fact, it is a term that describes different brain disorders that effect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. Once you know more it can be easier to empathise with their situation and make caring for them a whole lot easier.
Martin Ricketts is CEO of Plutus Health