Support and helpful tips for carers of dementia patients
There are as many as 700,000 people who are carers in the UK for friends or family who are living with dementia. With the number of people living with dementia continuing to grow, the number of carers will inevitably rise too.
Caring for someone living with dementia is a challenging task, with a variety of experiences ranging across a spectrum that can impact not only the life of the person they are caring for but also their own. Despite some of these challenges that can have both physical and psychological impact, the rewarding feeling of caring for someone living with dementia is profound.
It’s important to remember that as a carer, you also need to prioritise your own wellbeing. The effect of caring for dementia patients can often have an emotional toll, especially if you are caring for someone close to you. Seeing the changes friends or family undergo following their diagnosis can be hard, so understanding what you can do to help manage your own health and wellbeing is important.
Support for carers
Consider joining a carer support group
A big part of managing and processing the effects of caring for someone living with dementia is finding people who can relate to your situation. Finding a support network such as members of a carers’ group can have a positive impact on navigating the effects of being a dementia carer.
A shared experience can help you bond, finding someone that has relatable experiences and understands what you are going through can be comforting. Knowing you aren’t alone can make a big difference.
Carers groups can offer a range of benefits from social interaction with others in a similar situation, talks from professionals that can offer useful insight into caring for people living with dementia, or offering activities such as leisure activities and trips. Find your local support near you here.
Online support groups
If you aren’t able to join a local carers or support group, there are some online that can offer the opportunity to connect with others sharing your experience. They can offer a great place to talk to others, especially if there is no one you can meet with in person to chat with. Even just talking about your experiences can have a positive impact.
Here are some useful online supports that can help give advice and support for carers:
- Admiral Nurses who give practical clinical and emotional support to families living with dementia
- The Carer’s Trust who offer advice on their website for carers
- Carers UK, a national charity for carers, providing information and support
- Alzheimer’s Society who have information on all diseases that cause dementia and where to find support near you
Make time for yourself
Balancing the care you provide with your own personal time can be tricky, but it’s important to maintain time to care for yourself and of course to spend time with your family and friends too. One way you can achieve this is by sharing the caregiving even if it is only for a short time. If you don’t have the option of sharing the caring with a friend or family member, there are several professional services that can offer assistance, such as day centre or respite care specifically for people living with dementia.
Access financial support
Even if you aren’t looking after someone full time, you may still be eligible for financial support as a caregiver. The government supports some carers through a range of benefits or credits available if they are looking after someone regularly. There are also support options available through some local authorities that can assist with caregiving. It is worth checking whether you are eligible to access any of these services, as every little bit helps.
Charities, such as Age UK and Alzheimer’s Society, can be a source of invaluable support and advice. Much of this can be accessed online or over the phone, with a range of resources specifically designed to help carers overcome the challenges of supporting someone living with dementia. It’s important to understand you shouldn’t feel guilty about needing your own support, as everyone’s situation is different.
Tips for caring for someone living with dementia
Research from Alzheimer’s Research UK found that the combination of the physical and psychological impact of caring for someome with dementia makes the role of carer particularly exhausting and challenging.
As such, there are some practical tips for how best to care for someone living with dementia. These can help ease the strain of providing such care, managing tasks more effectively and providing better care overall for the loved one. Discover some of these below:
1. Use clear communication
When it comes to interacting with the person you are caring for, using clear, concise communication can make it easier for both of you. Instead of asking open-ended questions, try to ask questions that require a simple yes or no answer. A person living with dementia may have lost their ability to connect information into clear ideas and responses, which can cause anxiety. Simple communication minimises the chances of anxiety for the person you are caring for.
2. Create a comfortable environment
Dementia can negatively impact problem-solving skills, cognitive activity and can impair judgement. As such, the risk of injury is greatly increased.
It’s crucial to create a safe environment that keeps the person living with dementia out of harm’s way at all times. You can do this by:
- Checking temperatures: When bathing, it’s important to check water temperature to prevent burns from occurring.
- Preventing slips and falls: Avoid any clutter that could cause a fall such as extension cords, general ornaments and rugs. It’s also worthwhile installing handrails or grab bars where they are most needed.
- Using locks: Anything that’s potentially dangerous should be locked away. This could include medicine, alcohol, cleaning substances and dangerous utensils.
- Taking fire safety precautions: Keep matches and lighters out of reach and ensure a fire extinguisher is nearby. Don’t forget to check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for fresh batteries too.
3. Follow a routine
Even completing everyday tasks can be overwhelming for people living with dementia. To avoid causes of confusion or distress, following a daily routine can relieve the chance of anxiety-inducing tasks. Try to encourage getting out of bed, bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time each day.
4. Provide the right balance of stimulation
Television, among other activities, cannot always be enjoyed the same way by people living with dementia. To avoid unnecessary distress, the concept of slow TV helps carers and their loved ones or patients to enjoy ‘dementia-friendly TV’. My Life TV is a streaming service designed for people living with dementia that allows them to engage, relax and have fun. It can also enable carers to continue on with other tasks while the person they are caring for is entertained in a calming environment.
If you’d like to learn more, then there are very helpful guides online that will cover any further questions that you may have:
- Caring for a person with dementia: A practical guide – Alzheimer’s Society
- Looking after someone with dementia: Guide – NHS
- Caring for someone with dementia – Action for Carers