Advice and help for those living with memory loss or dementia, and their carers.
*In addition to the below, the IDEAL Programme has a leaflet with five key messages about how people with dementia can stay well during the coronavirus pandemic.*
Dementia is a group of symptoms caused by damage to the brain. Symptoms include memory loss, difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.
The Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) has more information on the different types of dementia and the symptoms.
Becoming forgetful does not mean that you have dementia, memory loss can be a normal part of ageing or the symptom of a medical condition such as a water infection (UTI). But if you're at all worried about yourself or someone else becoming forgetful or confused, speak to a GP or a Memory Support Advisor. You may also find the information from the Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust Memory Assessment Service (opens in a new window) helpful.
NHS Choices (opens in a new window) has information about what to expect when you see your GP about dementia and how a diagnosis is made.
Alzheimer's Society also has advice on what to do if you're worried about your memory (opens in a new window) or worried about someone else's (opens in a new window). The brochure ' Living Well With Dementia in Dorset (opens in a new window)' is a directory of services and support for people with dementia and memory loss, their carers and families.
People with a learning disability are at greater risk of developing dementia. It also tends to occur at an earlier age (especially for those with Down's syndrome). The symptoms in the early stages can be different and difficult to spot and can progress more quickly.
For these reasons, it is even more important to get an early diagnosis. If you care for someone with a learning disability and are concerned about signs of memory loss or dementia, contact your GP or the Memory Support and Advisory Service (opens in a new window).
Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) has more information about learning disabilities and dementia.
Staying in your own home
Being diagnosed with dementia does not mean you have to lose your independence. There are lots of things you can do to help you live safely in your own home for as long as possible.
Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) have information about how to make your home dementia friendly. Sometimes simple changes to your home environment can make things easier, such as having better lighting and labelling cupboards.
Equipment can help you to carry out daily tasks such as washing, dressing and eating.
Telecare (opens in a new window) is special equipment that can sense risks such as smoke, floods and gas, can remind you to take pills and even call for help if you fall.
Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) has information and advice if you're not sure what equipment may help you.
Adapting your home may also help you. For example, putting handrails in the bathroom can make it easier to get in and out of the bath.
Dementia can make eating and drinking difficult for a number of reasons, including loss of appetite, forgetting to eat and being unable to recognise food. Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) has information and advice on how dementia affects eating and drinking and has practical tips for carers to help support someone to eat and drink well.
Someone who has dementia may forget to visit the toilet, or be unable to communicate their needs. Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) has advice on managing toilet problems and incontinence.
Personal care in the home provides options for extra support to help you.
We have information about housing options if living at home is not possible.
Nuisance phone calls
The National Trading Standards Scam Team have secured government funding to provide free call blocking technology to protect those in the most vulnerable circumstances from nuisance and scam calls.
Go to Friends Against Scams (opens in a new window) to find out if you are eligible and to apply for your free call blocker.
Getting out and about
Many people with dementia continue to drive and travel after being diagnosed. Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) has information about driving, including how to inform the DVLA.
Wessex Driveability (opens in a new window) can help if you would like an assessment to make sure you're okay to drive and that you are still driving safely.
Alzheimer's Society has free 'helpcards' for people with dementia (opens in a new window). These are cards you can carry with you when you're out and can make it easier to get help. They allow you to record your name and contact details, and the details of someone close to you who can be contacted if you need help.
Community transport schemes may help you if you no longer drive and can't use public transport.
The Memory Support and Advisory service can help you to stay independent and can support you by providing information, advice and guidance. The service is provided by the Alzheimer's Society and works closely with GPs, the team that diagnose dementia and other partner organisations.
Your GP can refer you to the Memory Support and Advisory Service.
You can also refer yourself to the service by contacting 0300 123 1916 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information is on the Alzheimer's Society website (opens in a new window).
Keeping yourself occupied can help you to feel better, keep in touch with others and maintain your everyday skills.
Reminiscence groups (opens in a new window) are held in some libraries and can help you if you like to remember past events and chat with others.
Memory cafes (opens in a new window) provide an opportunity for you, your family and carers to meet with others, ask questions of professionals and learn from the experiences of others.
Arts 4 Dementia (opens in a new window) have details of upcoming arts events and activities across Dorset.
Stepping into Nature (opens in a new window) run various dementia friendly activities across Dorset, including gentle walks and activities in beautiful natural spaces.
Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) has advice on exercise and physical activity for those with dementia.
Reading Well books on prescription (opens in a new window) can help you to understand and manage your health and wellbeing using self-help reading. The books are available to borrow from your local library.
If you are a knitter, why not support Handmade for Dementia (opens in a new window), a Facebook and Twitter group aiming to reduce the number of people with dementia requiring recannulation. The Alzheimer's Society say: 'People with dementia often find fiddling with material a helpful way to relieve feelings of anxiety. 'Twiddling' can be incorporated into specially-made activity blankets, cushions, aprons, toys, muffs and mitts'. You can help by making dementia cannula sleeves for your local hospital.
You may find the Alzheimer's Society's regular Dementia Together magazine (opens in a new window) of interest, whether you are living with the condition yourself or care for someone who is, or if you are looking to create a dementia-friendly community. They also have activity ideas (opens in a new window) to support someone in the later stages of dementia.
If you are caring for a person with dementia, you may sometimes find their behaviour confusing, irritating or difficult to deal with.
Advice and support
*In addition to the below, the IDEAL Programme has a leaflet for family members or friends supporting a person with dementia with five key messages about how to support someone with dementia during the coronavirus epidemic*
We have more information for carers on our carers hub including how to register as a carer and finding a carers support group.
Oakley Friends (opens in a new window) run a free training course for people who care for someone with dementia.
Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) has advice on how you can support someone who has dementia to communicate.
Contact the Memory Support and Advisory Service (opens in a new window) or your GP for support and advice if their behaviour worries you or causes distress.
Hints and tips
You might find the following tips useful:
- focus on what they can do rather than on what they cannot or will not - for example, lay clothes out for them to dress themselves as far as possible
- make sure they have meaningful things to do, from everyday chores to activities and do things together if you can
- make eye contact and try to listen carefully even when you are busy
- give them your full attention and think about any distractions such as noise that may affect them
- think about how you use gestures, facial expressions and touch - physical contact can give a lot of reassurance
- speak clearly and if you are not being understood use simple words or explain things differently
- stick to one topic at a time and make sure questions are simple
- too many choices can make a decision difficult, for example only give two choices when choosing what to eat
- when other people are around, include the person you care for in conversations
You may find the Alzheimer's Society's regular Dementia Together magazine (opens in a new window) useful as it features updates and real-life stories.
Changes in behaviour
Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) has information about how to deal with changes in behaviour. This includes restlessness, repetitive behaviour, shouting, walking about and sleep disturbance.
As a carer, you may well find changes in the person's behaviour difficult to cope with. This might include them repeating themselves, following you, pacing and shouting out. Keep in mind that they are not doing these things deliberately, and try not to take it personally. They may be in pain or trying to tell you something, for example that they are bored or frustrated.
Contact Memory Support and Advisory Service (opens in a new window) or your GP for support and advice if their behaviour worries you or causes distress.
Over time, many people with dementia, and their families, withdraw from social and leisure activities. This increases the sense of isolation that often occurs. Fortunately, there are a large number of groups and organisations dedicated to providing opportunities for socialising for those with dementia and their carers.
Memory cafes (opens in a new window) provide an opportunity for people with dementia, families and carers to meet with others, ask questions of professionals and learn from the experiences of others.
There are also other social activities specifically for people with memory loss and dementia.
A dementia activity recipe card resource pack (opens in a new window) is available from reminiscence arts charity Age Exchange to provide carers and care staff with a range of activities. The packs are available to purchase from the Age Exchange online shop (opens in a new window).
Helping people with dementia to return safely to their home
Home Safely is a scheme for carers of people with dementia which makes it easier for a person with dementia who is lost and confused in a public place to be taken home. Often their confusion means they cannot remember their address, or even their name. This can make it difficult for the emergency services to get them home and can be very distressing.
Under the Home Safely scheme, the person with dementia wears a bracelet which gives an ID number unique to them and the scheme telephone number. The bracelet looks like a watch strap and can be adjusted to fit the wearer, and is not easily removed by the wearer. The emergency services can contact the scheme, which connects to the local community alarm service, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When given the person's ID number, the operator can identify and call the carer. The carer can then collect the person they support, or the person can be taken home. The information is shared only with the emergency services and is not shared with other agencies or the public.
If you are interested in this service, please contact your local community alarm service according to where the person you care for lives:
- Poole - 01202 733255
- Bournemouth and Christchurch - 01202 452795
Make sure you are receiving any welfare benefits that you're entitled to.
Planning ahead and making decisions
If you have dementia, it's important to plan ahead and think about what will happen if you become unable to make decisions for yourself.
We have advice on mental capacity including how to set up Power of Attorney.
Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) has advice on legal and financial affairs.
You may want to think about making a will (opens in a new window) if you have not already done so
Knitters needed to unite against dementia and make dementia cannula sleeves! Support 'Handmade for Dementia', a group on Facebook
The group is looking for knitters who would like to help the campaign. Join them on Facebook and volunteer to knit these Dementia Cannula Sleeves for your local hospitals.