Living With Dementia
Dementia in all its forms has been getting more and more publicity recently, and with good reason. For many, the concept of losing memory to the point of being less able to look after oneself can be more frightening that physical limitations.
Research for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s is ever ongoing however and in the last few years numerous medications, theories on best care practice and solutions have developed. It is gradually getting to a stage where, despite someone’s limitations, quality of life doesn’t always have to be sacrificed. To keep up this momentum and shine a ray of positivity into a troubling area, here are Signature’s Top 5 Tips for Living with Dementia;
1- Build Routines
One of the appealing things about retirement is the flexibility it provides. Being able to go where you want and do what you want is something that many people only have in limited spurts during their working life. With dementia however, it is go-to advice to start building up again some of those old routines and even add new ones. Age UK has been a strong advocate for this one.
Practical things like making lists of daily tasks and activities and making plans are a starting point but the reason that this helps is far more nuianced. Routines create consistency, a comfort zone and stability and keeping to them offers many reassurance in times of confusion, can stimulate memory through repetition and concentrate someone’s focus. These are all things that are shown to help prolong memory retention, stave off long periods of difficulty coping and lengthen the time periods where someone is completely coherent. Routines are also a great way to stay social and involve other people in your life, which brings us on to point number two.
2- Interacting with Others
Going well beyond just the life fulfillment that things brings to many people in later life, interacting with others does wonders for living with dementia, however advanced. One of the common results of people coping with dementia is them isolating themselves. It’s a natural progression as the mind gradually draws in but social interaction not only helps to bring people out of the shell that dementia pulls you into but can work wonders on making it less of a burden for you and those around you.
Spending time with friends, family and even new acquaintances (in things like living with dementia support groups, for instance) gets the mind working to keep pace with conversation, reignites old in-jokes or resurfaces memories. All these things are shown to help keep people who have dementia from becoming too mentally isolated from those around them and having company is good for people of all ages.
3- Patience with Yourself
Losing some of the faculties that all of us so often take for granted through life is immensly frustrating and can cause people huge amounts of anxiety and stress. Patience is something that carers, family and friends will no doubt have with those struggling with dementia but it can be difficult to show that patience towards yourself. It’s easier said than done, but confronting the fact that a little extra time is needed nowadays to do things is important.
Fighting dementia with rage and frustration can’t help and will reduce the quality of life someone still has, so let patience, stability and comfort do the fighting for you.
4- Keeping Busy
This is sound advice for people of any age, whether you’re suffering with any sort of physical or mental disability or not. Keeping busy is good for your mind, your body and your mood, especially if you have dementia. Of course, it’s difficult to accept your limitations and many people can’t stay as busy as they’d like as a result of dementia but wherever possible, a busy schedule can work wonders.
Not only does it keep the mind engaged, stimulated and active which is the aim in the first place but it can lead to an enriched quality of life that someone may have been looking for since retirement anyway. Hobbies (whatever they might be), activities with friends and family or in the community or even giving yourself tasks and projects to complete at home are solid ways of keeping someone mentally active which in turn pushes back on dementia.
5- Make your Home Dementia-Friendly
A very practical piece of advice here and one that many wouldn’t, perhaps, consider. Making a home more suitable to an aging person’s requirements is common place but we tend to think of that in the physical sense of hand rails, stair lifts of wheel chair access. We don’t often think of it for the mind too.
Part of this advice is to keep yourself safe, naturally, but there’s knock-on effects that can benefit you. Some lead back to our earlier point of building routines and some are there purely to make life as simply as possible. Practical things you can do include cooking meals in pairs, making floor spaces accessible, having a particular location for keys, meds, TV remote and bills, ensuring there are soft lighting options to reduce strain on the eyes, and in turn, the brain and creating a reminder system for your small tasks around the house. These all may seem like things most people do in their day-to-day lives anyway but someone with dementia will rely on such stability more than most so it’s important to make sure it’s there.
Another piece of advice that is often brought up with dementia is adaptability. It may seem strange to ask someone who is having memory loss issues or is often confused to be adaptable but it is meant in the sense that people should learn to adapt to their limitations and built around those. Oftentimes, ploughing forward heedless of obstacles can be more destructive, so build a way of life that suits you and the limitations you feel you have. Following tips like these will make the day-to-day and maybe the long term easier so it never need be a burden, there’s no reason to sacrifice quality of life. Living with dementia is exactly that, there’s still an emphasis on the living part.