As the population rises and people live longer, dementia in the UK becomes ever more commonplace.
There are 850,000 people living with the condition in the UK – and that number is expected to rise to more than one million by 2025.
But for those who have a close friend or family member with dementia, there are plenty of resources available to help lighten the load.
- Telephone helpline
The Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline from the Dementia UK team is the only nurse-led dementia helpline in the country. There are nurses on the end of the phone or email seven days a week answering anything from first symptoms of dementia to legal issues.
You can find more info here.
- Assistive technology
Technology is helping caregivers in all sorts of ways.
A simple example could be a timed reminder to take medication. Also widely available are motion sensors that remind whoever is in the room to close the front door/turn off the oven, easy-to-use music players and intercoms.
There are plenty of places to find such technology, but the AT Dementia shop is a good start.
It’s important to be clear when it comes to communicating with someone with dementia.
Body language can speak louder than words – whether that’s facial expressions, physical touch or simply proximity.
The NHS has some useful advice on how best to reach out.
People living with dementia tend to retain their social skills so it’s important to keep hold of humour in your dialogues.
You might need to adjust your speech to be clearer, but that doesn’t mean cutting out lighthearted chats and becoming overly serious.
You can find more tips on tone and communication here.
- Food and drink
Dementia can bring about a shift in food preferences, as well as more serious issues such as forgetting to eat and physical changes that can lead to problems in chewing.
It can be a daunting task to help plan and prepare meals for those with dementia, ensuring that they’re getting the right mix of nutrients and great taste.
This guide from the Caroline Walker Trust helps you plan meals and keeps in mind factors such as the texture, colour and cost of food.
- Movie screenings
Another excellent initiative comes from the cinema chain Picturehouse Cinemas.
It hosts dementia-friendly screenings of old films and musicals. The lights are left on but dimmed, there are no ads or trailers, tea and coffee is served before the screening and the audience is allowed to move around as they wish. All for £4 (carers go free).
You can find more info and listings of upcoming films here.
- Caregiver support
It can be a tiring and sometimes lonely task to look after someone with dementia. Not only that, most people don’t have the sufficient experience required to deal with it.
Speaking with others in the same boat is vital. The Alzheimer’s Association hosts the ALZConnected forum where caregivers, people with Alzheimer’s and others affected by the disease can share stories and seek advice.
Recent topics posted and discussed range from ‘Feel-good stuff’ to ‘Long-term care insurance – lessons learned’.
- How to cope
In a similar vein, Health Scotland has produced a series of short films looking at how carers can take care of themselves.
In ‘Coping with Caring’ and ‘Looking after Yourself’, you can hear from other carers, learn practical ways of coping and find out how to get help. There’s also a focus on the importance of keeping physically well, taking regular breaks and whether you should adjust your work life according to your care responsibilities.
You can watch the videos here.
- Home modifications
Dementia may require a person’s home to be adapted to suit their changing needs.
Whether it’s handrails, signage or lighting, there is lots you can do to make a home easier and more practical for someone with dementia.
This factsheet from the Alzheimer’s Society has a whole host of tips on home equipment, adaptations and improvements.
Holidays may no longer seem like an option for those with dementia. But actually there is a way to relax in new places in a supportive, sympathetic environment.
Dementia Adventures is a social enterprise that runs short breaks for those living with dementia and their carers. The group raises funds to assist in underwriting the cost of the holiday.
Upcoming trips include Suffolk, Dorset and Faro, Portugal.
You can find out more here.