“My family member has been diagnosed with a type of dementia – How can I help?”14/03/19
Receiving a diagnosis of dementia is a life-changing moment for a person and their family and friends. It can lead to a variety of emotions being expressed, from sadness to anger, relief to worry, and feelings of fear or a sense of loss are also common.
The diagnosing clinician may offer drug treatments, if they are appropriate for the type of dementia your family member has and compatible with any other health conditions they have or medications they are already taking. Your family member may also be offered non-drug therapies such as a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – such courses are often run by Memory Clinics.
The medical team may provide advice regarding continuing to drive, advance care planning, Power of Attorney (POA) and making a will, alongside information about participating in research. Although there is no current cure for dementia, research is ongoing to provide more treatments and hopefully that elusive cure – You can find out more about dementia research here: www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk.
Living as well as possible with dementia
Often families want to take practical steps to help their relative to live as well as possible, and some of the best ways to do that include:
- Making the home environment dementia friendly
This is really important for enabling a person with dementia to remain as independent and comfortable at home as possible. You can find 10-tips from the Alzheimer’s Society here: www.alzheimers.org.uk and more extensive information from the University of Stirling Dementia Centre here: dementia.stir.ac.uk.
- Accessing peer support
Connecting with people who have already been diagnosed with dementia can be incredibly beneficial for someone who is newly diagnosed. You can find out more about peer support for a person with dementia from the Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project (DEEP) www.dementiavoices.org.uk and Dementia Alliance International: www.dementiaallianceinternational.org. There is also a peer support network for family carers provided by Together in Dementia Everyday (TIDE): www.tide.uk.net.
- Life story work
Documenting the person’s life story and creating resources like memory books or boxes can be very helpful in promoting reminiscence activity for the whole family. More information from Dementia UK here: www.dementiauk.org.
- Using technology
There are lots of different types of technology that can help to support a person’s memory and enable them to be more independent with numerous aspects of everyday life. Many companies offer different options, including Unforgettable: www.unforgettable.org.
- Eating healthily
Keeping to a balanced diet can enable a person to maintain an optimal weight and feel healthier and happier. The Eatwell Guide is a useful resource for supporting healthy eating: www.gov.uk.
- Keeping active
Supporting a person with dementia to maintain an active life can help to promote their wellbeing and mobility. Even gentle exercise and chair-based activity can be beneficial. More information from the Alzheimer’s Society here: www.alzheimers.org.uk.
Social connectivity is really important for wellbeing and beneficial for brain health. Investigate if your local community has a memory café, a singing for the brain group or other opportunities to socialise. The Alzheimer’s Society offer many of these services – you can find out more here: www.alzheimers.org.uk.
- Taking a holiday together
A holiday or short break as a couple or family can help everyone to cope better. You can find information about dementia friendly breaks and holidays here: www.youngdementiauk.org.
Additional support for families
Finding out more about dementia can help families feel better equipped to cope. Numerous training options exist, including www.utas.edu.au/wicking/understanding-dementia and dementiacarers.org.uk.
As a family carer, you are legally entitled to an assessment of your needs under the Care Act – More information from Carers Trust here: carers.org/article/care-act-2014-england. Remember to let your GP know you are a family carer too so that you can access any carers services that they offer.
There are also helplines, online forums and numerous books to provide information and support, including:
- Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline (staffed by qualified dementia nurses)
- The National Dementia Helpline from the Alzheimer’s Society
- Talking Point – Online community from the Alzheimer’s Society
- Reading well – Books on prescription
The importance of home
In their June 2014 report ‘Fix Dementia Care – Homecare’, The Alzheimer’s Society and YouGov found that “85% of people would choose to live at home for as long as possible if diagnosed with dementia.”
This aligns with what we hear from families every day, and why we believe that the best place to support a person with dementia and their relatives is within their own home environment.
The role of live-in care or nursing
If a member of your family has been diagnosed with any type of dementia, Consultus is fully aware of how this can impact the extended family. Our skilled live-in carers and nurses offer expert care assistance 24/7 to help people at all stages of dementia.
To speak to one of our Care Consultants, phone 01732 355 231 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about your options for care and support now, or to understand what care and support may be needed for your family in the future.
With thanks to Beth Britton for her support in authoring this page. Beth is a leading campaigner, consultant, writer and blogger whose father had vascular dementia for 19 years. Beth is also a Skills for Care Endorsed Training Provider. For more information visit Beth’s website.