10 top tips for carers

It’s World Mental Health Day this week – a day designed to raise awareness of mental health issues, not just in order to help those suffering from such a condition but also to support those who are looking after someone with a mental health problem so they can best cope.

469809825Did you know there are currently 800,000 people with various forms of dementia in the UK, a figure set to rise to over a million by 2021– meaning many of us have or will have loved ones with the condition in future.

While dementia is progressive, a good quality of life is still achievable if you can de-stress situations, avoid unnecessary confrontations and follow some simple guidelines. Here’s some advice from myagingparent.com to help families affected by dementia navigate their way through…

  1. Put some structure into each day, like going for a walk, or to the shops. This will make the day feel like it has more purpose and the exercise will help to maintain a healthy sleep pattern.
  2. Don’t give too much notice of a visit or appointment. People with dementia get anxious and confused about appointments and it can be very stressful, so a ‘just in time’ approach helps them not to fret for hours or days ahead.
  3. Seek out reasons for anxiety. General anxious behaviour is often experienced by dementia sufferers for a number of reasons, but the person with dementia will often not be able to explain how they feel, or why. Check some of the basic things first. Are they feeling too hot, too cold, hungry, thirsty, in pain or constipated? Just having these things in your mind might help you to pick up small clues and help you to alleviate their distress.
  4. Mirrors can be distressing for people with dementia. They may think of themselves as still being in their early twenties and not recognise the person they can see. This in turn can lead to quite disturbing behaviour. If possible, remove the mirrors to lessen potential confusion and distress.
  5. Involve a person with dementia with simple household tasks, to help them feel useful and active – jobs such as folding tea towels and cloths, dusting a piece of furniture, brushing out flower pots or other outdoor activities.
  6. Try to remember that some behaviour is beyond their conscious control  – e.g. sexual remarks, shouting, swearing and accusing people of stealing. Try to reassure them that things are OK and take steps to distract them, maybe by moving them into another room to provide a new set of stimuli. However, do bear in mind that people with dementia can be, and often are, victims of crime, so make sure no theft has actually taken place before you assume they are making false accusations.
  7. Don’t be put off giving someone with dementia food and drink if they say they are not hungry or thirsty. The condition sometimes makes it hard for people with dementia to recognise hunger pains or thirst. Try to eat together to increase their social interaction. People who don’t recognise their own need for food will tend to eat with others and enjoy the meal experience.
  8. Let your relative or friend with dementia lead the conversation and don’t be tempted to correct small details in the accuracy of the story. It is much better to enjoy a general flow of conversation, rather than frustrate them by correcting them constantly.
  9. Close the curtains before it gets dark. As the light levels go down, some people can become upset and agitated. Try closing the curtains a little earlier and making the room cheerful with lamps to distract attention from the dark evenings.
  10. Always accept any offer of help. Friends and family will often offer to help, but they may not know what kind of help is needed, or what they can do. Looking after, even living with, someone with dementia can be hugely tiring and stressful, and if you run out of energy your health will suffer, which can then impact upon the person you care for. You need some well-deserved respite. So if you have someone willing to share even a small part of the care on an occasional basis, ask them to prepare some food, do some ironing, or take your partner for a walk or out to eat whatever will help you out and give you a break.

For more information visit myagingparent.com

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