Caring For Someone With Dementia At Home

For those with dementia, having the choice to be cared for at home is really important, but it is never an easy decision and can be routed in fears about the future and ‘what if’s’. Here, Nicki Bones, operations director of SweetTree, offers some expert advice for families.

Dementia is an incredibly distressing disease and when it comes to the provision of care it is important for families to know that they have options. There are support services, products and organisations out there that can help them at different stages of the illness and also with any decisions they need to make about the future.

At SweetTree, we work with families going through this difficult journey, providing a range of specialist home care services. As dementia is a progressive disease, care needs will vary widely and also change as time goes by. For some it can be the reassurance and companionship gained from having a carer or support worker visit for a few hours to assist around the house, or to accompany them on a trip out. For others a live-in carer may be needed, or it can be the option of having a care worker step in when needed to provide respite for family members.

Unfortunately it is not uncommon for family members who are caring for someone with dementia to experience stress and anxiety and to find that their situation is untenable. Trying to deal with this on a longer term basis can have an impact on mental health, but also physical health.

There are many things that can help this situation, but often families tell us that they did not know about the services that were available to them.

From our experience of working with families, we have found a number of things to be extremely useful in this situation. They include:

Signposting: Finding the local support services is an important first step. One of the key things we have done for our clients is to put together a pamphlet signposting all the services available locally and including a description of the services provided and the contact details.

Support groups: Facilitating family members of people with dementia to get together to share a coffee and support each other can make a huge difference. Meeting with other people going through what you are going through, and who truly understand the situation, can be very powerful. It is also a chance to share ideas and experiences and to receive advice on developing coping strategies.

Training for carers: A key part of the support groups we run at SweetTree is providing advice and training for family carers. Many of the families we speak to tell us it is very difficult for them to find out this information. Doctors may tell them about the disease and what happens to their loved one’s brain and the outcomes, but they do not say how best to support the person in their everyday life.

All of the above are ways for family carers to get support and advice but it is also important that they have the coping mechanisms to be able to support their loved one, in conjunction with experts in the field. This joint understanding and sharing works really well and means that the person with dementia themselves has the best support from people who understand and who are no longer constantly stressed themselves.

This is significant as it has been shown that people with dementia reflect the mood of the people around them. If carers are low in mood and anxious they are very likely to feel down themselves and display anxiety. For those with dementia, when the people around them are calm this is too often reflected in their manner, clearly having an impact on the person with dementia’s well-being.

Families facing these issues and who would like more information or advice are welcome to visit our website, or to call us on 020 7624 9944. SweetTree is supporting The Alzheimer’s Show 2014, which will be taking place next spring in London. The show brings together specialist services, care and support that can help those with dementia and their families to live their lives to the full.

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