A person living with dementia, and their network of family and carers, face many problems on a daily basis. Often the solutions to these problems are of no cost. As an example, a person with dementia will do much better around the home when you increase the light levels, this can be simply achieved by pushing back heavy curtains fully and taking down unneeded heavy blinds from the windows.
Often a reflection in the mirror can disorientate a person with dementia as they no longer recognise themselves a low cost, quick fix, solution for this can include covering the bathroom mirror with a roller blind. A low cost roller blind will remove this problem for the person with dementia with minimal fuss. Some changes in the home, such as changing the flooring or carpeting to me more ‘dementia friendly’ can cost more money but will greatly assist a person with dementia when navigating around the home.
Assistive technologies throughout the home can also range from low-cost to high cost devices and assist those with dementia or their carers cope with situations that would otherwise cause confusion or disorientation. This series of articles details some of these designs and presents are range of solutions that can assist those with dementia and their carers in the home.
To solve any problems you may face living with dementia it is important to understand the issues that a person with dementia have to deal with, these include:
- Memory problems
- Difficulty learning new things and skills
- Incapacity in working things out
- Managing changes that come with age while having a reduced ability to adapt to them
- Add stress brought on by these issues
All of these problems are associated with dementia but every individual is different and the difficulties that a person faces are not defined by a strict set of rules. Careful assessment and an understanding of a person’s needs is important while assisting a person with dementia
While memory issues are a common source of problems for a person with dementia this is not necessarily the primary concern. Research has also shown that for carers problems with memory are not always the more difficult area to manage but it can be a source of frustration for both parties. The memory loss problems are generally related to more recent events rather than forgetting earlier ones in their lives. This can cause concerns if a person suffering from dementia has moved home in recent years. Where possible, the ideal situation is for a person living with dementia to remain in familiar surrounding for as long as possible as the stressed caused by remembering new surroundings can further problems.
Introducing new things or skills to a person with dementia can cause stress and hardship. Around the home you can include a number of features to assist them with daily living. For example, colour coding can be a good way to help a person find things in various different drawers but as this is asking a person with dementia to learn new things it will only cause additional levels of stress. Instead include imagery to help guide a person with dementia to the items that they are looking for such as pictures of socks or clothing on the appropriate drawers.
A person diagnosed with dementia is often older and are more likely to have some impairments of eyesight or hearing, or possibly a physical impairment. For example, older people tend to need glasses or wear a hearing aid but because of their dementia a person may start to forget to put these on causing further distress. Adjustments around the home, such as clocks with a larger display, can assist a person that may have forgotten to wear their glasses. If replacing old clocks, where possible, it is important to position the replacements in the same area as the previous ones. This maintains the old routines and reduces the need to remember the new location of the clock with the larger display.
Dementia causes huge levels of stress and discomfort for individuals on a daily basis, waking up in unfamiliar surrounding each day can cause panic or alarm. To reduce the risks of this it is important to avoid making wholesale changes to a person’s surroundings.
Another cause of distress comes when early onset of dementia is noticeable through dealings with other people. There have been cases in the past where GPs have been slow to diagnose dementia as they feel not much more can be done for the person. Thankfully, this has changed a lot over recent years and the importance of keeping all parties fully informed is widely recognised as the best approach to treatment. There are a number of great resources locally and a few are listed here for your reference:
- HSE – Coping with Dementia
- Caring for Carers
- Dementia Services Information and Development Centre
- The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland