Written by Active Minds on Friday the 7th of July 2017.
Being a carer for a person living with dementia, whilst vital, can also be difficult and exhausting. It is important that, as a carer, you feel fully supported by not just the friends and family around you, but also by reaching out to the variety of groups and charities available to you, such as Carers UK and the Alzheimer’s Society. These organisations are there to help with any questions you may have, offer advice and support, as well as provide you with invaluable tips on how to care for a person living with dementia. There are also organisations like SuperCarers who can support you when you might need to take a well deserved break.
We’ve compiled some of their advice below:
Engaging your loved one in regular activities such as jigsaw puzzles, painting or reading a newspaper together, will not only help to engage their brain but will also help reduce stress and anxiety as well as giving a sense of accomplishment and independence.
Encouraging gentle exercise as often as possible is incredibly beneficial for your loved one living with dementia (as well as you!). Physically it will maintain strong muscles, flexible joints and may prevent falls. Mentally it improves cognition, helps maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels, as well as reducing stress and feelings of isolation.
Exercise can take on many forms, whether it’s a walk to the local shops together, some light gardening or gentle walks around a local park. It also gives you and your loved one a chance to spend some quality time together, away from the chores of daily life, to talk and enjoy each other’s company.
Ensure you allow a person living with dementia to have a voice. Listen to them, be patient and try to empathise as much as possible. Often a person living with dementia may have their opinion or voice overlooked, so it’s important to make them feel that they are being listened to.
Offering choice to a loved one living with dementia will make them feel independent and maintain their self-confidence. However, try not to over complicate the choices, keep them to a minimum. For example, offer them a choice for breakfast, but keep the choice to two or three items, as any more could overwhelm and agitate your loved one.
Some people living with dementia may begin to struggle with food. They might have difficulties swallowing and chewing, or perhaps lose interest in eating all together. Offer regular, small meals – roughly five to six times a day. If your loved one struggles with chewing, if possible, eat meals with them, as they can then copy you.
Try to stick to healthy foods that offer nutrients and vitamins, such as leafy greens (which are high in folate and B9 – which improve cognition and reduce depression), or berries and cherries (these contain anthocyanin that protects the brain from further damage caused by free radicals). Beans and legumes are another favourite as these contain folate, iron, magnesium and potassium that can help with general body function and neuron firing. As well as a B vitamin that boosts acetylcholine (a neuro transmitter critical for brain function).
Caring for a loved one can be extremely hard, especially over busy periods when routines are disrupted and additional care may be needed. Our advice is helpful in allowing you to manage your care responsibilities with your day-to-day life, however it is important to take some time to yourself every now and again. Home care whether booked as respite or on a more regular basis can take the pressure off you and allow you to get away for some hard earned R&R. Organisations like SuperCarers can introduce you to reliable carers in your local area and help you provide the care your loved one deserves.