5 ways to help someone with dementia
If a partner, friend or relative has dementia, you may feel helpless and upset. But there’s quite a lot you can do to help them enjoy their life.
Take a trip down memory lane
While the short-term memory may be limited, many dementia sufferers can still easily recall the past and enjoy doing so. So-called reminiscence therapy can help to boost feelings of self-confidence and stimulate conversation – and it’s very easy to do. Start simple – take along a photograph or a memento that could start up a conversation. As we age, we have an increased tendency to remember things that happened to us between the ages of 10 and 30, with events from the late teens and early twenties remaining most prominent. Psychologists call this ‘the reminiscence bump’. For people with dementia, these memories usually remain vivid until their illness is very advanced.
Many studies show that music can reduce agitation and provide a way to connect with a person who has dementia. Singing and music groups such as those run by the Alzheimer’s Society are increasingly popular. It’s bound to feel good to be able to remember all the words to a song, even if you can’t remember what day it is. Singing is also a sociable and powerful emotional tool. A song can make anyone laugh or cry when it taps into a strong memory.
Keep in Touch
Many people with dementia say that friends seem to disappear, so they become lonely and isolated. Continue to visit, write and phone – even if you think ‘they won’t remember’. Dementia is a complex illness and there’s often no telling what people will and won’t recall. Your visit could mean a great deal.
A 2007 study compared the experiences of 20 people living with dementia. Half undertook an indoor programme of physical activity, and the other half did outdoor activities. While both groups found their sleep improved, the outdoor group started to sleep for longer and showed fewer signs of verbal agitation.
A 2008 study highlighted the importance of outdoor social interaction. It noted that if someone was unable to get outdoors, it often reduced their ability to socialise, which had a negative effect on their mental wellbeing.
Creative hobbies stimulate the brain and can be extremely enjoyable. Painting, crafts, adult colouring books, games and puzzles for people with dementia are now easily available. If you can’t find anything suitable, just take along a pack of dominoes or a simple game such as Connect 4.
A USEFUL WEBSITE Unforgettable.org is a new website aiming to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia by providing useful specialist products. It was set up by James Ashwell, whose mother, Fay, developed the illness at the age of 54.