Dementia – time to open up the memory box…

Dementia often affects a person’s ability to communicate, so they may need to develop alternative ways of expressing their feelings.

Non-verbal communication, including body language and the tone of voice of carers, will become increasingly important.

A person with dementia may have a different sense of reality.

By understanding this we can begin to be aware of what they might be feeling and be able to interpret their behaviour.

Long-term memory becomes increasingly important.

Our top tips to help people who have a relative or friend with dementia:

It is important to do the following:

  • Simplify sentences and instructions so that you are not asking too much in one statement, listen carefully, and give plenty of time for the person to respond.
  • Enable the person to have as much control over their life as possible. Use prompts and reassurance during tasks that the person finds more difficult.
  • Help the person by using visual or pictorial cues (e.g. a sign of a toilet on a bathroom door) and planners to structure their day. Try to structure the day so that activities happen in the same order. Routines should be individual and allow for flexibility.
  • A ‘life story book’ or ‘memory box’ of photos and mementos from the person’s past may be a useful way to help the person interact and reminisce.
  • If someone is agitated, the environment might be too busy or noisy. Ordinary levels of background noise from television, radio or conversations can add to the level of confusion a person with dementia experiences.
  • The living environment should be calming and familiar. Mirrors and reflections in windows and shiny surfaces are a common cause of confusion to some people with dementia.
  • Relaxation techniques such as massage, aromatherapy and familiar music can be effective and enjoyable. Someone with dementia may be able to sing or hum a favourite tune even after they have lost the ability to speak.
  • Eating and drinking enough can present challenges for people with dementia. Common sense and creative solutions can help maintain hydration and a healthy balanced diet.
  • If the person’s behaviour becomes aggressive, carers and professionals should work together to establish reasons or triggers for the person’s frustration and find ways of preventing the behaviour. Changes in behaviour are often caused by the environment, undiagnosed pain or the actions of others.