Dementia Action Week: how to support a patient with dementia

It is important to find out whether a patient is suffering from dementia in order to seek the necessary help and care needed. This Dementia Action Week, if you’re worried about a patient, Luca Rado, the co-founder of The Live In Care Company (https://www.theliveincarecompany.co.uk) has shared the early warning signs to look out for, what to do, and how to support someone going through this. Whilst the topic can sometimes be uncomfortable, it is essential we are aware of the condition and how to act on a diagnosis, as according to NHS research, there are more than 850,000 people in the UK who have dementia. One in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, and the condition affects 1 in 6 people over 80 also; so it’s time to educate and take action.
Luca Rado says the five early signs of dementia are:
“1. Memory loss – this is probably the most well-known symptom of dementia. For instance, they may forget to lock the front door or turn off the oven. They may lose things more frequently and forget someone’s name. Memory naturally worsens as we age, so it is important not to jump to the conclusion that the person with memory difficulties has dementia. Often someone with dementia will not just show memory difficulties but they will also have additional symptoms from this list too.
2. Difficulty performing basic tasks – you may notice that someone is struggling with tasks that they used to have no difficulty with previously. This may be something such as maintaining their personal hygiene or cooking a meal. When someone loses the ability to perform basic tasks that they used to perform well, this can sometimes be a sign of dementia.
3. Language problems – one way to know how to recognise dementia is a loss in communication ability. This can be with both speech production and understanding. You may find that someone is struggling to follow a conversation or is repeating themselves often. In some cases, people may struggle to name items correctly or may forget the word that they are looking for.
4. Disorientation – getting lost when outside the home in a familiar place can be a warning sign for dementia. As can being disorientated to the time, day and date. If someone misses appointments and social events this can be a sign that they are not orientated to the correct date. If dementia is more severe, then the person may find themselves being disorientated within their own home or being unsure of whether it is night or day.
5. Apathy – a person with dementia may become very passive, sitting in front of the television for hours, sleeping more than usual, or may lose interest in hobbies they were previously fascinated by.”
What to do if you think a patient has dementia?
It is important to seek medical advice from a professional if you think the person you’re caring for is showing signs associated with dementia. Luca explains that:
There is no one set test for dementia. Usually testing for dementia involves a variety of different professionals and investigations, doctors may want to know more about a patient’s medical history, neurologists will want to conduct brain scans and cognitive testing is often requested.”
How to help a patient with dementia?
If a patient has been diagnosed with dementia, it can be difficult to manage emotionally for the person affected. There are plenty of ways though that you can help your patient, and also ensure a connection with them too, as dementia can be distressing for all involved.
Luca says: “Dementia can affect a person’s confidence, self-esteem, relationships, independence, and day to day life. It’s important to remember they have little control over what they can and can’t remember, so always try to make sure they feel listened to with positive gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and non-verbal communication, all of which can go a long way to maintain a positive connection. Here are some things you can do to support a patient with a dementia diagnosis:
  • Be patient
  • Actively empathise
  • Provide a relaxed environment 
  • Offer emotional support 
  • Allow plenty of time for activities/ tasks
  • Do things with the person rather than for the person
  • Maintain eye contact 
  • Offer help in a supportive way 
  • Break down tasks into manageable steps 
  • Adapt to tasks and take into account particular activities 
  • Focus on the process rather than the completion of the tasks
Above all, remember they are still the same person. This mindset will go a long way in dealing with the bumps in the road if remembered.”
For more advice on dementia care, activities and support, please visit The Live In Care Company’s website and guide section:
https://www.theliveincarecompany.co.uk/care-guides/

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