Practical Tips on Living with Dementia
We have produced a helpful infographic that breaks down lots of really helpful tips, across all aspects of life to help you or a loved one that is living with Dementia.
The infographic covers a rang of topics; including:
- Topic 1 – Mental Health & Wellbeing
- Topic 2 – Keeping Fit, Healthy and Well
- Topic 3 – In the Home, including the use of dementia aids
- Topic 4 – Out and About
- Topic 5 – Legal Matters
- Topic 6 – Financial Matters
- Topic 7 – Care and Support
- Topic 8 – Advice for Carers, Family and Friends
51 Tips To Help You With Your Daily Living if You Live With Dementia
Tip 1 – Get organised with a routine, calendar and visual aids
A simple to follow yet firm daily and weekly routine can be really helpful for people with Dementia. This could include set mealtimes, time for a walk and a few hours allocated to your favourite hobby. Keeping to these regular times should help you to remember what you are doing each day a little better.
A clock that features the day, date and the time in large figures is handy, as you’ll be able to keep track throughout the day and refer back to your routine if needed.
To do lists, calendars, weekly planners and even reminder boards can be incredibly useful, too. The visual aids you opt for depend on your preferences – but go for something you know you are likely to use and even enjoy filling in.
You could also keep a diary or basic journal – which will help you to remember what you have done each day.
Tip 2 – Try complementary therapies and Dementia management
Both the diminished mental wellbeing that can come along with Dementia and its symptoms can be greatly alleviated with targeted therapies and activities. Usually these can be found at special classes in your local area.
Therapeutic sessions can reduce disorientation and confusion whilst boosting self-esteem and wellbeing via a range of proven techniques – but they also provide a chance to socialise and meet with others living with the condition.
Tip 3 – Access counselling and emotional support
A diagnosis of Dementia can be devastating and difficult to come to terms with emotionally. Although family and friends can lend an ear, it can be preferable to speak to someone impartial in a private setting or as part of a support group, a person trained to understand your concerns.
There are specialist counselling services available to people with Dementia – especially in the early stages following diagnosis.
Tip 4 – Don’t give up your daily activities – seek more!
Keep up any hobbies or daily activities you enjoy as much as possible – and actively seek others to keep your mind and body healthy and fit.
These could include classes or simple exercises you can do at home. For example, puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku have been shown to help the brain to retain memories and stay sharper.
Tip 5 – Maintain social activities and meet with friends
A diagnosis of Dementia doesn’t mean you have to hide away in the house all day. In fact, the opposite is true – the more you continue to interact with others and get out and about, the better you will feel. Make sure you’re talking with people every day – whether that’s family members, friends or neighbours.
Arrange days and evenings out – take a look at social clubs you can join and events you can attend. There are plenty of Dementia-friendly activities you can try – and as we explain above, some hobbies (such as sports, art and problem-solving crafts, music and cookery) can help to keep your mind and body active and healthy.
Tip 6 – Keep talking
Communication is really important – and an open dialogue is essential to ensure that you feel understood by and connected with others.
Keep the conversation open with family, friends and any health professionals involved in your care. Make sure you’re honest about how you are feeling, and how they may be able to help you. If they do offer to support you, accept their help and try to work with them to find solutions.
Tip 7 – Don’t worry about explaining yourself to others
Although communication and socialisation are important, they can also be difficult for people with Dementia. Sometimes those with Dementia feel embarrassed or frustrated with themselves if they are unable to carry a conversation or feel confused or withdrawn.
Dementia can affect communication – which can make it difficult sometimes for you to take part in conversations, or express yourself. Make sure that you let people know you may have trouble understanding them – and ask them to repeat things if you need them to. If you have trouble finding the words you need, tell the other person – they may be able to help you.
Tip 8 – Keep your memory going with brain-sharpening exercises and activities
Specialist, targeted exercises and activities have been shown to greatly improve wellbeing and alleviate the symptoms of Dementia.
Clubs, groups and physical activities not only help to sharpen the brain, they provide a sense of purpose and an opportunity to socialise, reducing isolation. This in turn lessens the anxiety, irritability, confusion and distress Dementia can bring.
Keep Fit, Healthy and well
Tip 9 – Exercise and mental stimulation are important
Several studies have shown that as well as having naturally positive effects for your joints, muscles and overall health, exercise stimulates the brain. In particular walking, dancing, gardening and swimming have been shown to improve brain function.
Tip 10 – Eat well and drink plenty of water to combat health issues that can exacerbate symptoms of Dementia
Eating a nutritious, balanced diet can greatly improve your overall sense of health and wellbeing. It’s impossible to overestimate the impact of good food and a healthy lifestyle upon both the brain and the body. In fact, certain foods in particular are good for the brain. These include oily fish (like salmon, tuna and trout), fruit and vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
Tip 11 – Keep in touch with your doctor and other healthcare professionals
Keep the dialogue open with your doctor or specialist, and ask them about regular check-ups to ensure that your course of treatment is still right for you. They may also be able to recommend group therapies and sessions you can attend which may help to improve your condition and alleviate symptoms through targeted therapy and improved wellbeing.
Tip 12 – Keep other health and mobility issues in check
Make sure somebody is around to keep an eye on your overall health. Although with a diagnosis of Dementia the focus often falls on mental wellbeing alone, the illness (and old age) can naturally bring about other conditions that need to be monitored and managed.
Tip 13 – Ask about occupational health
Occupational therapy is another great option for individuals with Dementia. You can ask to be referred to an occupational therapist by your doctor or specialist. This person will be able to offer practical tips and advice – this will help you to live better and can make daily tasks much easier.
In the home
Tip 14 – Invest in dementia aids to help you to live safely at home
Living safely at home can be difficult for individuals with Dementia. Because of common symptoms such as memory loss, disorientation and confusion, the home can become a dangerous place. Most people wish to remain in familiar surroundings for as long as possible – and fortunately there are plenty of tools to make sure that this can happen in most situations.
Tip 15 – Ensure easy communication with family, friends and carers
Whether you are living alone or with a spouse, relative or friend, you will need to be easy to get hold of, and you should be able to contact loved ones easily. Keeping important phone numbers by the phone along with a notepad to keep track of who you have spoken to is an easy way to ensure you’re staying in touch with your friends and family.
Tip 16 – Consider care at home or companionship
If you’re unable to schedule regular time with family, friends and carers, companionship or care in the home is a great option. Although there is a cost attached to this, it can be invaluable and greatly improve your health and wellbeing – as well as ensuring your safety.
Tip 17 – Reduce vulnerability with additional security measures
In the home it is more likely that you could forget to turn the gas off, leave food in the oven or keep a tap running and cause a flood. Externally, it can become more difficult to determine whether you are receiving a scam call, to know who you are answering the door to, and forget that you have already given money to charity today.
Tip 18 – Label cupboards and household items using colour coding
Clearly labelling the things you use the most in the house (such as your cereal cupboard, fridge, TV remote and telephone) can help to trigger your memory if you are feeling confused.
Tip 19 – Pre-arrange your meals
Going out to buy shopping and preparing meals becomes harder with Dementia. Appetite can also be affected – especially when it is hard to know what time it is, or whether or not you have eaten.
Tip 20 – Keep everyday essentials handy
To avoid misplacing things or forgetting their locations, it’s a good idea to keep all essential items in a prominent, easy to see, easy to reach place. Glasses, house keys, telephones and money – anything you use on a daily basis should be kept here.
Tip 21 – Make sure your medication is organised and readily available
Dementia can make it easy to forget to take medication, or become confused over what date and time it is. Ask your pharmacist about pillboxes and organisers – these include the dates and times for each set of medication to remind you.
Out and about
Tip 22 – Always let friends, relatives or carers know where you are going, and when
In the early stages of Dementia, it’s still possible to go out and about independently. However you may still become confused, frightened or forgetful.
Although it may sound intrusive, it’s really important to let somebody know when you are going out and where you are going in case you become confused and forget where you are, or are unable to get back home.
Tip 23 – Invest in a personal alarm and other useful gadgets
These are suitable for vulnerable adults who live with dementia. They allow access to vital information about your medical conditions, medications, history and documentation in the event of an emergency. It can also provide details of your emergency contacts if you get lost or confused.
Tip 24 – Always keep a phone handy
Always keep a mobile phone on your person – with the numbers of your family and friends saved so that you can easily call them without having to remember their contact details.
Tip 25 – Keep your details and phone numbers of carers and relatives on your person
In addition to a phone with numbers stored in it, keeping a card in your purse or wallet (somewhere you’re unlikely to forget about it, remove it or misplace it) with your details and those of your relatives is essential. Make sure you include your full name and any medical conditions you have (including Dementia), and several emergency contacts.
Tip 26 – Consider Lasting Power of Attorney as soon as possible
Lasting Power of Attorney is a type of legal document which enables a nominated person (normally a trusted family member or friend) to take care of financial or personal affairs on your behalf should you lose mental capacity. Loss of mental capacity is an unfortunate but inevitable symptom of Dementia – so putting a Lasting Power of Attorney in place is something to consider as a matter of urgency.
Tip 27 – Ensure that you have made a will
It is very important for anyone to make a will – but when you have been given a diagnosis of Dementia, it’s essential. Without a will, you can’t decide what happens to your financial assets when you are gone – and the government will partition your funds accordingly. You may also want to consider producing a Living Will which allows you to set out what medical treatment you do or do not want as you get older and less well.
Tip 28 – Think about all the other key legal issues that offer you and your family financial protection in the future
Linked to all this is what you want to do with your assets when you do die. Preparing for this is called Estate Planning, and this is all about ensuring your financial affairs are in order from a legal perspective. One of the key things that you should do is look for the many legal ways that you can avoid inheritance tax.
Tip 29 – Consider drawing up an ‘Advance Decision’
An ‘Advanced Care Plan’ is a set of directions you put together, usually with the assistance of a healthcare professional. It ensures that you will be able to have access to the treatment you want when you no longer have the mental capacity to make decisions regarding your care. It’s unpleasant to think of death and future mental incapacity or illness, but considering how you will be looked after now will ensure that your wishes are carried out.
Tip 30 – Consider care costs and make arrangements accordingly
If you have already made financial arrangements, you may need to reconsider or alter them to accommodate the future cost of care. This could include adjusting your will, or thinking about arranging your assets so that you can release equity in your home at a later date, or sell property in order to pay for care.
Tip 31 – Think about your will and inheritance
When facing a diagnosis of Dementia a will becomes even more imperative, as you can only make one or alter an existing will when you are deemed to have full mental capacity to do so.
Tip 32 – Set aside money for everyday living and enjoyment
When calculating care costs and inheritance it’s easy to forget that you’ll need a pot of money to use for daily living expenses – and enjoyment. Remember that you can still do the things you love to do – and activities and social events can greatly benefit your overall wellbeing.
Tip 33 – Ensure that you have access to all the benefits and financial support you are entitled to
Paying for care can very quickly become expensive. You may be eligible for benefits either as a result of your diagnosis of Dementia, other illnesses or financial factors – so it’s important to explore this in detail and review your situation every now and again to ensure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to.
Tip 34 – Arrange bank accounts, insurance and other financial assets and investments now whilst you are able to do so
If you choose to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, this will only come into play when you are deemed to have lost mental capacity. Therefore if you are in the early stages of Dementia, it is advisable to put measures in place now if you wish to deal with your finances now and make provisions for the future yourself.
Tip 35 – Short-term solutions can be helpful
Although short-term financial solutions shouldn’t be relied upon for a protracted or indefinite period of time, they can be incredibly useful in the interim as you make firmer arrangements. .
Tip 36 – Consider putting money into a trust
If you’re keen to leave behind some money for your loved ones, or wish to hand over control of your finances to a trusted relative to take care of for you, a trust may be a suitable option. A trust is a legal arrangement – so it must be set up by a professional such as a solicitor. In essence the trustee (a nominated person of your choosing) looks after your assets (such as cash, property or investments) on behalf of another person.
care and support
Tip 37 – Gather information to decide which type of care is right for you
The type of care you need will largely depend on your situation and current condition. Individuals with Dementia can often access care at home first, either on a regular weekly or daily basis, or administered by a live-in carer.
Tip 38 – Budget for care
It’s important to make sure that the homes you select provide care within your budget. Determining a budget before you begin is the advisable. When considering how much you have to spend you should take into account all your assets – including savings, shares and property. Then think about the type of care you wish to receive now and in the future – and how long you expect to require care provision for.
Tip 39 – Research care homes and agencies carefully and thoroughly before making a shortlist
Once you’ve chosen the type of care you feel will be right for you, it’s time to decide which company you are going to pay to administer it. There are plenty of care agencies and homes – and this can make picking just one confusing and rather difficult.
Tip 40 – Always ask for genuine reviews and testimonials
Whether you are opting for care in the home or are moving into a residential establishment specialising in the treatment of individuals with Dementia, it’s important that you feel confident in their ability to look after you.
Tip 41 – Bear in mind that things may change in the future
It’s worth bearing in mind that the type of care you choose now may not suit your needs later down the line as your condition progresses. For example, if you choose in the interim to access care at home, you may find that you need to opt for residential care in a few years’ time. Or you may decide to move into sheltered accommodation, but need Dementia-specific care provision at a later stage. This is a natural and common occurrence – but you will need to be prepared for it financially.
Tip 42 – Consider both short-term and long-term care solutions
It can be daunting to consider care options – especially if you’re in need of immediate support. Be sure not to put pressure on yourself, and think about interim care to help give you the time you need to make a sound decision. Interim care could be simple companionship, or a home care company popping in once a week.
advice for carers, family and friends
Tip 43 – Contact local agencies to ensure that you have access to the support you need
Every local authority offers a different range of support – but all areas should provide resources for people with Dementia and their families. This could be a special group to help with the symptoms of Dementia such as memory loss, or a course of therapy aimed at helping people to live with the condition.
Tip 44 – Ensure that your relative is getting all the financial and medical support they’re entitled to
If you have Lasting Power of Attorney (see Chapters 5 and 6, Legal Matters and Financial Matters) in place, you may need to speak to agencies and medical professionals on your relative’s behalf to ensure that they are receiving the support they are entitled to.
Tip 45 – Apply for carer’s allowance and other benefits
If you are caring full time or even part time for a family member with Dementia, you may be eligible for carer’s allowance.
This financial support can help you to cover some of the costs of looking after a relative, such as petrol, shopping and giving up work or going part time. ‘Joint benefits’ are not available for separate individuals – so if you are sharing the care with another relative, you will need to split the money between you.
Tip 46 – Ensure that Lasting Power of Attorney is in place and potentially funeral arrangements have been discussed
If you plan on taking full responsibility for your relative as their mental capacity and physical capability diminishes, it’s important to consider putting a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.
It can be difficult to broach the subject of Lasting Power of Attorney with a loved one, as financial matters and care provision are often sensitive subjects.
Tip 47 – Learn as much as possible about dementia and how to deal with it
Dementia is a complex condition comprised of specific illnesses collectively – and although its symptoms are recognisable and can be severe, it affects everyone differently.
Tip 48 – Make sure you’re prepared and willing to administer care, and make plans for the future
Looking after someone with Dementia can be challenging – and it can put a strain on the relationship you have with your loved one and other family members. It is also time-consuming and can have a financial impact as well as an emotional one.
Tip 49 – Take some time to look after yourself
Many carers often neglect their own health, as their lives become consumed by looking after another person. However this can be detrimental to both physical and mental health. Although it may feel difficult to find the time to set aside just for you, caring for your own mental wellbeing will help you to provide better support for your friend or relative.
Tip 50 – Don’t be ashamed to ask for help
Caring full-time for a relative with Dementia can be exhausting and difficult. If possible (or necessary), consider some respite care, or be honest with yourself and your loved one if you feel the time has come to hand over to a professional carer.
Tip 51 – Access counselling or attend support groups
If caring for your relative has taken an emotional toll on you, it’s important to recognise that your own mental wellbeing must be taken care of. It can be difficult to express feelings of anger, frustration, guilt or exhaustion – especially to family members and to the person you are caring for.