I Know Someone Living with Dementia – What Can I Do to Help Them?
If you know someone with dementia you will know that a lot of the assumptions made are incorrect. Most importantly dementia is not just about memory loss and is not something that happens to us all as we get older.
Dementia is not itself a disease but is an umbrella term for the symptoms caused by the diseases which affect the brain. The most common disease of the brain is Alzheimer’s.
It is true to say that one of the symptoms of dementia is memory loss but there are many others including – but not limited to – confusion, depression and loss of visual perception. If you know someone living with dementia or are their carer, you will know that every person’s experience of dementia is different; their symptoms and how they can cope with those symptoms differ.
A diagnosis of dementia inevitably causes stress and anxiety which in turn can be incredibly frustrating and upsetting. Understanding what dementia is and also doing some research into the symptoms of the disease such as Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy Bodies will help you to understand and prepare (to some degree) as to what is going to happen and the potential symptoms. Most importantly by understanding, you are also able to support and reassure.
Offering support is one of the most important things you can do for someone living with dementia although everyone is different as some people find accepting support very difficult.
A person living with dementia in the early stages will still be able to enjoy all of the things they did before the diagnosis but they might need some help. For example, someone who enjoys baking can still do so but they may need some triggers to help remember where certain items are in the kitchen. This could be done by labelling items or putting notes on cupboard doors. Safety is also a concern, especially in the kitchen, so rather than tell someone they can’t do something you could offer to help them or be their ‘assistant.’
If you are unsure there is a lot of support out there. A lot of community centres now hold dementia coffee mornings and/or support groups. Your GP will also be able to direct you to the relevant support.
Unfortunately, dementia not only brings changes to behaviour but also brings with it an increased vulnerability. If you have any concerns about the health and/or welfare of someone living with dementia or if you think someone is in danger of financial exploitation you should seek help straight away by calling the police and raising your concerns. You should also speak to a solicitor about what protection can be put in place or the legal powers given by way of registration of any existing documents naming an attorney, or making an application to the Court of Protection.