Small changes can make a huge positive impact

Dementia Action Week 17-22 May

Led by the Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia Action Week sees the public come together to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.

When raising awareness about dementia, there are five key messages that should be remembered:

  1. Dementia is NOT a natural part of ageing – Not everyone is going to develop dementia when they grow old and not everyone who develops dementia is old. Although cases are rare, it has been known for people in their 20s to be diagnosed.
  2. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain – Just like any other organ in the body can be damaged by disease, dementia is caused when a disease physically damages the brain.
  3. Dementia is not just about losing your memory – The brain controls a variety of functions aside from our memory. Communication, motor skills, sequencing and vision can all be affected my dementia.
  4. There is more to the person than the dementia – In exactly the same way we would look at a person with cancer or diabetes and see the person before the illness, there is more to the person than the dementia.
  5. It is possible to live well with dementia – For people who are living with dementia, they may well still be able to work, drive and have relationships. What they can do and how long for would depend on the circumstances of the individual.

The term of ‘living well’ will mean different things for different people of course, and it is not to say that living with dementia does not have challenges. It is still possible to live well despite these challenges and people around the community can all help with this.

How you can help

There are all sorts of ways for people to help those living with dementia through little changes to their approach to the subject.

  • Change your language – When talking about dementia, don’t use negative words that evoke bad thoughts on the condition. A good example would be to say someone is “living with” dementia, rather than “suffering with”.
  • Visit someone with dementia – That spare five minutes to an hour you may have in your day could bring such a positive boost to someone living with dementia.
  • Be patient with people – It can be easy to get frustrated when having to repeat the same answers to the same questions multiple times. It may also be frustrating when trying to jog someone’s memory. Wait, remember it is not their fault why they are asking again or can’t remember a memory from the other day. You may have to say the same thing over but getting irate or shouting at someone living with dementia will only upset them. They won’t remember why they feel upset next time they see you but the feeling will still be there.
  • Join or start a Dementia Friendly Communities steering group – Get the community involved in spreading awareness and ensuring life for those living with dementia is as comfortable as possible.

There are many more ways to get involved and support those living with dementia. It may also surprise you to know that shops in your own community also take part in the change.

Hiding in plain sight

Supermarkets do so many positive things that many of us don’t notice. For instance, some open up earlier for those living with dementia and they turn the music either down or completely off to reduce stress levels.

They take away the black carpets that you see at the front of the shop. This may seem strange to you but think of someone who has vision impairment due to dementia. To them, that mat looks like a big hole in the ground that they may fall into so they won’t go near it for fear of falling. Taking the mat up takes away that anxiety.

Some supermarkets have dedicated members of staff that will assist people with dementia as they go about their visit to the shop and help them with their money if counting is a struggle.

These are just a few of so many more positive impacts taking place right on your doorstep. Can you think of one that you could start doing?

Advances in technology

A new addition to the ways in which those living with dementia can be cared for more effectively is the introduction of some incredible new technology. The device is called RITA, which stands for Reminiscence Interactive Therapy Activates.

It comes in the form of user-friendly touch screen or tablet to lend entertainment and therapy to assist patients in remembering and sharing things form their past using music and watching news reports of historical events. Other features include films, karaoke and playing games.

There are so many benefits from this device. It helps families and carers communicate with the person more effectively and positive mood and wellbeing results for the patient and carer.

A personal file can be created with all the individual’s needs and likes – such as their favourite music and films. This creates a much more personalised and effective way to care for that person according to not only their medical requirements but also their personal interests, which can also be a calming factor to reduce anxiety and stress.