Navigating Daily Life: Practical Tips for Families Supporting Loved Ones with Dementia

Supporting loved ones with dementia

When a family member is diagnosed with dementia, it can be an enormously difficult and emotional time for everyone involved. As the disease progresses, those living with dementia often require increasing support from loved ones to continue navigating daily activities.

Providing this level of care while managing your own responsibilities can certainly feel overwhelming. However, there are many practical things you can do to make daily life a little easier for both the individual with dementia and yourself. In this article, we’ll share some helpful tips.

Importance Of Family’s Involvement

Importance Of Family’s Involvement

The early stages of any condition that leads to cognitive decline such as in dementia, your loved one may not need a lot of caregiving. However, as the disease progresses, the person experiencing the condition can develop difficulties with performing daily activities.

The role of family members is to support their loved one while ensuring they receive the proper assistance to carry out the activities of their daily life.

One of the first steps of providing support to your loved one is helping them accept the diagnosis. Dementia is a chronic condition that does not have a cure. Thus, it becomes necessary for them to receive proper care and support. 

Family members are the closest emotional and psychological support that a patient has. This becomes an important source of strength to fight the disease while also accepting the diagnosis. 

The support that a family member provides can be pivotal in navigating through the symptoms that one experiences. They can be helped through differentiating the signs of the condition. 

Another way support from the family members is of importance is from the perspective of helping the person with dementia deal with the strong emotions. There are several changes that occur during the course of dementia, this makes it important for the patient to receive strong support. 

Changes that they go through:

  • Feelings of anger, grief, disbelief, fear and denial during the early stages. 
  • Difficulty in performing activities of daily life as time passes. 
  • Conflicting emotions throughout the course of the condition. 

Other ways through which you can support your loved one with dementia: 

  • Learn everything you can about the condition 
  • Be in constant touch with the healthcare team overlooking your loved one’s care. 
  • Learn how you can support your loved one through the condition, helping them navigate the symptoms. 

One of the most important aspects of providing support and care to your loved one is ensuring they do not feel “dependent or helpless.” Independence is an important part of our self-esteem, more so for people with a chronic condition where they are slowly losing their ability to perform activities on their own without the fear of hurting themselves. 

Treatment options are available for the symptoms one experiences during this condition. The lifestyle changes that occur for them can seem like a lot to navigate through. However, when you let them make the decisions such as choosing a time for a recreational activity, you are giving them a sense of control over their condition. 

Helping them not lose their self-esteem, while also providing assistance wherever needed. Instead of directly helping them, you can present them with the choice of asking for help or doing it on their own. It is one of the most important aspects of providing care and support to a loved one with a diagnosis of dementia. 

6 Ways You Can Support Loved Ones With Dementia

Doing everything at once is not a great option and knowing where to start can help you with providing support sooner. The following list provides you a look at all the best ways you can support your loved one: 

1. Simplify Your Home

Simplify Your Home

    As dementia progresses, too much clutter or stimulation can be overwhelming. Here are some ideas to help create a calmer, dementia-friendly home:

    • Remove unnecessary furniture and décor to open up space. This reduces fall risks and makes it easier to move around.
    • Install hand rails, adequate lighting and non-slip floors, especially in the bathroom. This aids mobility and independence.
    • Put away fragile items that could get broken. Replace with unbreakable alternatives.
    • Use signs or images for orientation. For example, mark doors or cupboards, or add photos to bedrooms.
    • Keep frequently used items in easy reach to minimise frustration.

    2. Support Independence with Routine

    Support Independence with Routine

      Establishing and sticking to a consistent daily routine can provide essential structure. Individuals with dementia often find comfort in familiar patterns and activities. You can use wall calendars, whiteboards or apps to display the day’s schedule. Ensure regular times for waking, meals, self-care, social engagement, rest and sleep. Also be prepared to flex the routine when needed – restructuring can cause distress if unable to keep to the plan.

      3. Use Memory Aids

      Use Memory Aids

      There are many great products available to provide memory assistance. These include medication reminders, day clocks displaying the date and time, and notice boards for writing down important events. Labelling drawers and doors also helps orientate the individual within the home environment. Photos of loved ones can spark positive emotional connections.

      4. Adapt Communication Strategies

      Adapt Communication Strategies

        Dementia can impact communication skills and memory retention. To connect better:

        • Keep sentences short and give one instruction at a time.
        • Speak slowly, clearly and make eye contact. Allow time for responses.
        • Use gentle touch, facial expressions and tone of voice to convey meaning.
        • Avoid arguing about false beliefs. Instead, redirect focus to another activity.
        • Encourage reminiscence of positive past events and family stories.

        5. Find Local Support Services

        Find Local Support Services

          You don’t have to do this alone. There are many services to help families living with dementia in the UK:

          • Admiral Nurses provide specialist dementia support for families and carers. Ask your GP or contact Dementia UK.
          • Carer support groups connect you with others facing similar challenges. Carers UK has an online group finder.
          • Dementia Cafés offer a relaxed, social environment for people with dementia and carers to get peer support. Use Dementia UK’s dementia directory to find your local café.
          • Dementia Friends from Alzheimer’s Society provides free online training to educate people about supporting those with dementia.
          • Home care services can provide assistance with personal care, meals and housekeeping. Many specialise in dementia care.

          6. Seek Respite When Needed

          Seek Respite When Needed

            Caring for someone with dementia is hugely demanding, both physically and emotionally. That’s why it’s so important to schedule regular respite sessions. Hire professional carers for a few hours each week so you can focus on your own needs. Or consider short residential breaks at specialist care homes like KYN’s Care Home in Hurlingham, allowing round-the-clock support while you recharge.

            The key is recognising when you need time out and not being afraid to ask for help. Maintaining your own health and wellbeing enables you to be fully present in your caring role. Support networks also provide friendship and advice when challenges arise.

            Wrapping It Up!

            Providing daily care for a loved one with dementia can certainly be difficult, but hopefully these practical tips make it feel a little more manageable. Reach out to organisations like Dementia UK or Carers Trust for access to many other great resources and services. Most importantly, remember that how you deliver support is just as vital as what you do. Offer care with patience, empathy and love.

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