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Living Well with Dementia

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Living Well with Dementia
If you, or someone you know, has been given a diagnosis of dementia we expect you have lots of questions and concerns about what might lie ahead of you and your family.

It is likely to be a worrying time for you and you may be feeling a mixture of emotions which is perfectly normal. However you are not alone and there is a lot of support to help you continue to live your life as fully as you always have.

It is really important to continue with the hobbies, interests and friendships you have always had and enjoyed. Some of these may need to be modified in time but take each day one step at a time.

 

Getting out and about

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Research shows that is it really important for both your mental and physical health to get out and about – going outside makes us feel better and gives us essential Vitamin D for building stronger muscles and bones. Getting outside for 10-15 mins a day can significantly improve your health and communication if you have dementia. Once outside just think of the activities you could do – from gardening (whether it’s potting plants or digging the benefits can be just as good) to simply chatting over the newspaper or some memory cards.

Of course getting outside safely may mean that you have to use mobility aids such as a rollator or walking stick to prevent falls but research shows that its worth it! If you feel that you need more assistance to benefit from the fresh air you could always invest in a wheelchair – this may enable you to sit outside with family and friends or simply have a cup of tea in the sunshine.

If you are feeling more adventurous and want to go further afield, in the car or on public transport there are many products which can make this easier for you and your family. For example there are lots of simple technologies which can reassure your family where you are and enable them to contact you easily. Many mobile phones have this technology built into them now but there are also cleverly designed simple to use mobile phones.

 

Technology to help

There are lots of clever gadgets and everyday technology which can help you to remain as safe and active as possible if you have a memory impairment – they also can help reassure your family too! As with all technology it is helpful if you can start using them as early as possible to get used to them being part of your life. Technology is changing all the time but some of the helpful ones are listed below:

Sensors placed around your home which will let someone of your choice know if you’ve left the gas on, fallen or not got back into bed in the night.
Memory Aids can be a helpful prompt to take you medication, remember your keys when leaving the house, switch off the taps or remind you have an appointment that day.
Smart doorbells can enable you to talk to and see a person at your front door without opening it, you then decide whether to let them in. There are also doorbells to help you if you struggle to hear the front door.
Simple telephones for keeping in touch. If you’re previously not used to them some new smartphones can be difficult to operate. A simple telephone, perhaps with pictures of the person your contacting can make keeping in touch a lot easier and less stressful! However using facetime, skype or other video technology can really help you feel connected to family and friends.
 

Using the bathroom

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Simple changes to bathroom design or the use of equipment can make a huge difference to safety and independence if you have dementia. Of course for all of us having a regular bath or shower, washing our hair and being able to go to the toilet easily is important for our mental health as well as our physical health. Some things to look out for in the bathroom include:

• If you would like to be able to get in and out of the bath more easily there are many products which may help. Remember though that too many changes can be confusing so try to achieve a balance between safety and stress. For example, if someone has always stepped into a bath perhaps they could be encouraged to do this more safely by using a bath step, some contrasting grab rails and a seat to sit on once they are safely inside.
• If you have a shower cubicle but would like to sit instead of stand to shower it may be worth considering a shower seat (either wall mounted, for space and stability, or free standing). Contrasting coloured rails in the shower can also help. A portable half height shower screen in the wet room can enable carers to help wash a person but not get soaked themselves!
• To prevent the bathroom flooding there are very clever devices available which will either release the water in the bath or basin or which will alert a person in the same house if the water has reached a critical level. It is especially important to install these items early on if you live in an upstairs flat.
• As with all rooms lighting is very important especially those with dementia - by the time you are 75 years old you need nearly four times as much light as a 20 year old. Make sure your bathroom is well lit – keeping the light on at night can help to prevent falls in the bathroom. Having the route to the toilet lit at night is also very important – you could use night lights or lighting which comes on automatically when it senses movement to increase safety.
Flooring is very important in helping to prevent falls and increase confidence when walking in the bathroom. A shiny floor can look wet which increases fear when walking. Try to not have too much of a colour contrast between the flooring outside and inside the bathroom –this will prevent it looking like you need to step over the threshold which may result in a fall. Slip resistant flooring is important – especially for when wet – avoid leaving bath mats down on the floor.
 

Cooking and eating

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Eating and drinking are one of life’s pleasures (for most of us!) and should continue to be made as easy and enjoyable as possible. Simple modifications made as early as possible can really make a difference:

• Make it as easy as possible to make a cup of tea or sandwich by grouping things and having things within easy reach. For example, put the cup, teaspoon and tea bags near to the kettle. Open shelving can also help with this – important, everyday items can be left out so they are easily seen. Glass fronted, clear cupboards (or removing cupboard doors) also help the contents to be seen.
Lighting and flooring as mentioned above are just as important in the kitchen too!
• There are products that can assist you to continue to cook for yourself and make a hot drink as safely as possible. For example, a Cooking Basket prevents you having to lift a pan of hot water or a Kettle Tipper can enable safe and comfortable pouring of hot water from the kettle into a cup. The hot water dispenser keeps liquid hot for up to 4 hours and may be a safer way of getting a drink.

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