It is Dementia Action Week this week and there are almost 460,000 Australians living with dementia. Dementia is a progressive disease that affects the brain, resulting in nerve cells and brain tissue death. Dementia affects a person’s memory, social skills, intellectual abilities and emotional responses.
STAGES OF DEMENTIA
- The early stages may be dismissed as old age, and are often only apparent in hindsight. The initial onset is gradual with symptoms like forgetfulness, losing language skills, becoming confused with simple tasks such as handling money or paying bills.
- The middle stages are when memory loss and confusion become more apparent and now begin to impact independence. Repetition of sentences and stories as well as incorrect sequencing of tasks such as getting dressed become more pronounced.
- The later stages of dementia are when a person can no longer manage daily activities such as washing, dressing, eating and toileting and require full-time care.
SUPPORTING THOSE LIVING WITH DEMENTIA
Families and carers face many challenges and often feel overwhelmed when looking after a loved one living with dementia. It’s important to understand that each person’s journey with dementia is unique, so it can be difficult to plan, care and support, but it’s particularly important to focus on what they can do and not what they can’t when providing care.
Those living with dementia find it difficult to retain new information and can rely on past experiences to make sense of the present. By knowing they experience problems with memory and thinking logically, you can create a ‘person-centred ‘approach by learning their likes and dislikes and routines as well as knowing their story.
DEMENTIA ACTION WEEK
‘A little support makes a lot of difference’.
Whilst people living with dementia can continue to live active and rich lives, as well as make significant contributions to the Community, it’s our actions and attitudes that reinforce behaviour and support for them.
TOP TEN COMMUNICATION TIPS
- Ensure that your loved one has had their hearing and eyesight checked and make sure that hearing aids are functioning properly and glasses are regularly cleaned.
- Communication is 55% body language, 38% tone and pitch of our voice and only 7% is the words we use, so it’s really important to focus on feelings and attitudes.
- Focus on dignity and self-esteem. Communicate a feeling of warmth and affection and where appropriate touch to keep attention.
- Allow time for your response to be understood and be adapted. Listen carefully and don’t finish sentences for those with dementia.
- Remain calm and talk in a gentle matter of fact way with gentle prompting.
- Avoid distracting background noise and consider offering ear plugs in noisy places like shopping centres.
- Offer simple choices and try only asking questions with yes or no answers.
- Repeating the same message in the same way is important for all family and carers to be on the same page.
- Stay still whilst talking to avoid distraction.
- Maintain regular routines to assist communication.
Living with dementia is about common sense approaches and putting practical strategies in place. Stay connected and learn meaningful ways to communicate with a loved one living with dementia. It’s about educating yourself, knowing the facts and putting a plan in place. For more information contact Dementia Australia.
At Homestyle we work with our elders, their families, medical practioners and support services to ensure our residents are afforded every opportunity to participate fully in day to day life and programs in our homes. If you would like to find out more about our short term or long term accommodation options please call us on (03) 9559 0400 or visit us here.