Simple Help for Someone with Dementia (Anyone Can Give)
Caring for someone with dementia can be mentally and physically exhausting — but equally rewarding. The good news is that there are a lot of ways people with dementia can be cared for that anyone can do. You can use your creative skills, learn new ones and form fulfilling relationships with the person or people you care for.
Below are some ideas for simple dementia care that anyone can provide – no expertise is required.
Help with everyday tasks
Although dementia is commonly associated with memory problems – other symptoms like difficulty concentrating, planning and judging distances are frequently experienced. Moods and emotions can also be tricky for someone with dementia to navigate. All these problems can affect completing the everyday tasks they used to find easy to do.
You can help someone with dementia by keeping them involved with tasks such as:
- Caring for pets and plants
- Eating and drinking
These tasks are regular but can become difficult for someone with dementia. You can help with planning and aiding their memory, plus providing company for someone, no matter what they are doing, is always appreciated.
Ways to help with shopping include:
- Creating a list of what they need
- Helping them plan some meals they enjoy
- Working out how much money they will need
- Supporting them while they make decisions (this can become harder for people living with dementia)
- Helping them to unpack and put away the shopping – so they can control where they keep things
- Helping with gardening so they can enjoy their outdoor space – if they don’t have a garden, they could grow flowers and herbs indoors
- Create memory aids to help them remember to feed their pet or water a plant
- Help them with walking a dog or grooming a cat
- Encouraging them to play with their pet so they benefit from the bond between them
Help with caring for pets and plants:
Sometimes a pet may not be suitable for someone with dementia, but a ‘fake’ one could still help. Petting and cuddling a soft animal can allow them to stay calm and provides sensory stimulation. For more information on pets and dementia, this blog is very helpful.
Eating and drinking:
- Preparing meals with them if they are able – helping them to remember where items are stored
- Providing crockery and cutlery that’s easy for them to hold and handle
- Cooking their favourite meal for them to provide comfort
- Reminding them to drink enough water – people with dementia might not always remember that they are thirsty
Living with dementia can make some people feel depressed and affect their moods. Art therapy and creative activities have been shown to help with keeping people engaged and happy. Some are even calming, like colouring. If the person was always creative, this could help to bring back some of their old skills, or it could help them to learn entirely new ones. It can also help with memory loss or difficulty concentrating.
Creative activities for dementia:
- Colouring, drawing or painting – pictures can be made into cards, gifts or used to decorate their home
- Jigsaws are stimulating and help with problem solving. Be sure to pick ones that won’t become frustrating too quickly
- Papercrafts – creating things can help with self-expression
- Knitting and sewing – These activities may be a little trickier for people with advanced dementia, so always check that they are safe to use needles or sewing needles
You can arrange to visit a memory café where some of these creative activities take place. They may also include quizzes, massage therapy and they usually provide tea, coffee and biscuits (for a small donation). If you don’t feel confident setting up a creative activity yourself, a memory café is a great solution.
Help with sleeping
A good night’s sleep is important for all of us, but people living with dementia can suffer from sleep disturbance and become disoriented. They may get up in the night and be confused as to what time of day or night it is. The following tips will be especially helpful if you are living with someone with dementia, as you will be with them overnight.
- Buy them a special clock that helps them to know if it is day or night and displays the time and date clearly
- Develop a routine for going to bed to help them to recognise when it is time to rest
- Limit their caffeine and alcohol intake, especially in the evening
- Make the bedroom comforting and comfortable – use black out blinds or night lights when needed
Anyone can feel lonely or isolated at times, but with dementia these feelings can be more common and debilitating. Even if you do not feel confident or don’t have enough time to do all the other things mentioned above, simply taking the time to talk with someone who has dementia (perhaps over a cup of tea) can help them to feel like they matter and build confidence.
Tips for chatting with someone who has dementia:
- Make time so you aren’t rushed
- Speak clearly and sit close enough for them to hear you
- Make sure their needs are met – e.g. the toilet, or are they hungry?
- Be conversational, don’t ask too many questions
- Be patient and don’t talk to them like they are a child
- Give them simple choices so they are not overwhelmed
There are some more tips on this below in the resources section.
If you have a friend or loved one with dementia, it can seem overwhelming. But there are lots of places you can go online to read more about it and discover simple ways you can care for them or help. Below are some of the sites that you might find insightful.