It can be quite frightening thinking about caring for elderly people with dementia, especially those closest to us. Many of us can only relate to the extreme cases we have seen in the media. Faced with the reality of caring for our elderly parents or relatives with dementia is something many of us must face up to.
However, there are lots of sources of help and support for those involved. The NHS, social services and voluntary organisations can provide advice and support.
Get a needs assessment
Following a diagnosis of dementia, the first step to take is to get a health and social care assessment. This assessment is how a person with dementia, and the person or people looking after them, gets help and support from their local authority’s social services department. The assessment is carried out by social services to find out what help and support you need – such as healthcare, equipment, care services in your home, or a stay in a care home. It provides a blueprint for care.
If a person with dementia has ongoing medical care needs, they may qualify for free NHS continuing care, which will be assessed by NHS staff.
Care options for people with dementia
It is possible for many people with dementia stay in their own home with good support, either from family carers, community nurses or paid care workers. Being in familiar surroundings can help people cope better with their dementia.
Many people with dementia will eventually need to move into a residential care home. This could be a care home or a nursing home, depending on their individual needs.
If you parent with dementia needs to move into a care home, try to make their space as familiar as possible. For example, put photos of family and friends where they will see them every day. Favourite pictures, furniture and ornaments could also make them feel more at home. Perhaps you may be able to arrange a trial period in a care home to see how both adapt.
Some people with severe dementia may need palliative care in a hospice, where they can receive good nursing care and pain control.
Admiral Nurses are registered nurses and experts in dementia care who work in the community, care homes and hospices. They give practical, clinical and emotional support to families living with dementia to improve their quality of life and help them cope.
To talk to an Admiral Nurse, call Admiral Nursing Direct on 0800 888 6678. The helpline is open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm; also from 6pm to 9pm on Wednesday and Thursday.
The helpline is a free service for carers, people with dementia, and health and social care professionals.
Charities for people with dementia
There are several dementia charities that can offer excellent advice and support. The leading dementia charity is the Alzheimer’s Society. Its website contains essential information on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, including how to live well with the disease and how to find help near you.
Dementia UK is a national charity that aims to improve the quality of life for people with dementia. It offers advice and support to families who are living with dementia through its Admiral Nurses, who are registered nurses and dementia experts.
Dementia UK and its Admiral Nurses also provide training for professionals who work with people with dementia.
If you are looking after someone with dementia, it’s important that you know how to get help and support for yourself as well. The Dementia Carer is a good place to start looking for information and advice on how to get help and support, and even a break from caring.
Social media for people with dementia and their carers
Online forums are a great way to share your experiences of caring for someone with dementia, as well as reading what others are going through. If there’s something you are struggling with, the chances are that someone else has had the same experience.
Talking Point is the Alzheimer’s Society’s forum. It has people with dementia sharing their information and advice, and supporting each other.
Activities for people with dementia and keeping positive
Keeping people with dementia active and meeting others can have very positive effects in the management of their condition. One great way to meet others is via local dementia “memory cafes”. These drop-in centres are run by volunteers and allow people with dementia and their carers to find advice and support from others who share the experience. Check out Dementia Connect for information about the cafes and other local activities. If you want to do something more active like going for days out and perhaps even take a short break but worried about managing the person with dementia’s needs there are organisations to help. Dementia Adventure offers outings and short breaks, such as barge sailing and woodland walks, designed for people living with dementia and their carers to enjoy together.
If you have experience you would like to share about coping with people with dementia, do join the conversation in Age Space Forum.