The speed of change varies greatly. Changes in behaviour may be caused by memory loss resulting in increased agitation and anxiety. These changes are often incorrectly identified as a symptom of the dementia. If the reason for the change can be identified, small adjustments can be implemented to overcome the problem helping retain independence for longer. Forgetting a name or place is common, but few have considered the impact of forgetting where the toilet is, how to make a cup of tea, or how to use a telephone. A simple sign on the door can really help – not simply as an aid to finding the toilet, but doing so quickly to prevent an incontinence episode. Leaving out the items needed to make a cup of tea, perhaps with simple instructions (verbal or pictorial) can help maintain a person’s hydration levels (42% of people who fall are dehydrated). Consider the type of telephone a person is using, you may need to replace it with an old fashioned style that a person can remember how to use. Traditional items in the kitchen can help with independence. Kettles are a good example of how design has changed over the years. A digital hob can be difficult for many to use, so a person with memory issues is likely to struggle and be better able to cope with something more traditional. Many of us have integrated kitchen appliances so finding the fridge can become a problem. Glass fronted cabinets can help finding items
Linked to memory loss, there are several reasons why a person with dementia may not be eating and drinking enough. In later stages, it can sadly be that the brain is not telling someone how to swallow and this can lead to death. However, there are other reasons to be aware of. Sight impairment and lack of colour contrast can mean a person cannot see the food on their plate so think they have finished their meal or lack interest in taking the time to struggle on. Poorly designed crockery can make manipulating food onto a fork difficult – and embarrassing if food falls off the plate and onto the table or floor. Memory can play tricks on a person and someone may believe they have eaten recently and therefore do not feel hungry. When monitored, their last meal may have been three days ago. Someone may forget how to eat and it can be really important to eat with them so they can copy you. It could also simply be about routine. Sitting at a table without distractions, rather than in front of the television can help maintain focus on the meal.
A person may struggle with words, be unable to follow a conversation or process information. Be patient, losing the ability to communicate is frightening and a person can become very isolated, which could potentially lead to depression
In addition to long term eye conditions and those simply related to age, a person with dementia can develop tunnel vision and be unable to see in 3D, making everything appear flat, making it difficult to judge distances. This can make stairs difficult to manage. Changes in carpet colours and silver or gold door strips can give the appearance of steps and contribute towards falls. Poor lighting can create shadows that can be perceived as obstacles and become a falls risk.
A person can lose their ability to see in colour or recognise colours. Shapes and contrast become important. Making sure a chair contrasts to the colour of floor support someone sitting down without falling.
Too much clutter can be confusing and cause agitation, but ensure you don’t remove the wrong items. It is important that a person still has many familiar things around them as they bring with them lots of good memories.
Be aware that patterns can cause anxiety. Swirls for instance on curtain or bedding can be perceived as something moving or stripes can be perceived as bars
This is the main safety area of concern. Forgetting to turn off the gas or electric is cause for concern. However, there are many fitments available which could help, certainly in the short term so worth investigating.
A daytime nap or waking in the night can cause disorientation, particularly during the winter months when it is always quite dark, so routine is important. Day/night clocks may help. Mirrors can cause confusion as a person may not recognise their own reflection or perceive the mirror to be a window with someone watching them. Both reactions can be very distressing. In a bathroom, a mirror may create an issue regarding personal care. Either removing the mirror or simply covering it can help.
Although dementia does not care who it affects, as we are living longer, more older people are developing the condition. With age comes a range of medical chronic conditions that the quality healthcare we now receive makes manageable, so a person can be living with a heart condition, have had a stroke, high blood pressure or diabetes. When caring for someone with dementia, all these other issues need to be considered too.
Find offer a range of products that can support independence in the home. Our products include small signs for doors and cupboards – specifically manufactured for home use. We offer items that support memory loss, from Things to Remember frames, to personal orientation boards. There is a full range of contrasting coloured toilet seats, handrails and aids, the Find Dining crockery range is both well designed and available in different colours. We also offer a wide range of activity items suitable for people living with dementia
See our full range