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Living with Dementia

Posted Jun 10, 2015
Part One of a Three Part Blog Series on Dementia Care:

Dementia is used to describe a range of symptoms associated with decline in cognitive function. This can mean a variety of things for your loved one, but it can ultimately affect memory, emotion, language, problem solving and attention. People with dementia may feel vulnerable as their condition worsens and seek greater assistance from those around them. It is important that those suffering from dementia feel supported and are able to retain some level independence. This is why Always Home Homecare has developed this guide to help assist care providers and family member’s alike with dementia care.

Keeping them Functional in the Face of Dementia:

Our environment helps to shape the world we live in, and can play a critical role in the positive lifestyles of those living with dementia. Here are some tips on subtle environmental changes you can make to help your loved one feel at ease.

dementia care

1. Adjustments to the Daily Routine – Those with dementia thrive when given a specific routine to follow. Make it a habit that personal care comes after breakfast, or bathing happens every second day. Ensure that meal times or meal amounts are consistent, and walks are on the schedule every day. Keep the most important parts of your loved ones day on schedule, but let them be hands on with it too. Ask them to complete simple tasks, such as fold the laundry. It may not be done flawlessly, but it will make your loved one feel useful. Keeping them active will also benefit their sleep habits, using their energy in the daytime may fight off some of the sleeplessness later on.

2. Adjustments to Meal-Time – Meal-time might seem like a difficult task what with the eating habits of your loved one consistently changing. Try offering several small meals throughout the day, rather than 3 large meals. Those suffering from dementia may lose the ability to tell when they are hungry or full and several small meals will help eliminate this guessing game. Offer finger foods that don’t require utensils. Those suffering from dementia may forget how to use utensils and split their food into smaller edible pieces. Even supplementing meals for drinks with a high nutrient content will help ensure they are getting their required daily intake. Finally, ask for assistance in the kitchen. Keep them involved in the meal-prep process and avoid arguments by distracting them with the task at hand.

3. Adjustments to Memory – Memory recall is used for many activities during your daily routine, and loss of memory just so happens to be a big part of dementia. It helps to begin with establishing your loved one’s current abilities, and working with their existing memories to pair them with new ones. To help with recognition, sit down with your loved one and go through photos of family members with them. Attach the photos to existing memories, and go through them frequently to keep the memories from slipping further. To keep up with current memories, have them maintain a daily journal to keep appointments and remember new contacts. Get them talking about past and current events if possible, anything that will keep their memory active.

4. Adjustments to Physical Activity – Experts have noted that regular cardiovascular exercises have shown improvements to the cognition of someone suffering with dementia. Cardio workouts show the best results as they increase the oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Walking, dancing, golfing, getting their heart pumping are all positive ways to help your loved one get in some physical activity. If your loved one suffers from impaired balance and visual perception, perhaps a more moderate workout is in order.

5. Adjustments to CommunicationContinued social engagement is a proven benefit for people suffering from dementia. Keeping your loved one around as your special helper whenever you’re completing a task can work as a benefit when communicating. Asking them to hand you items in the garden helps tie verbal cues to an item – helping them with item recognition. Having family and friends visit frequently can help keep your loved ones social life vibrant and keep them communicating their thoughts and memories often. It is important for family and  dementia care providers not to treat loved ones with dementia as if they are “lost”. Work every day to connect with this person on a meaningful and comforting manner, so they stay engaged in leading a healthy lifestyle.

Become a dementia friend today! Join the campaign hosted locally by the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, or the national Dementia Friends Campaign Canada.