Dementia Care: 5 Tips To Improve Quality of Life
Sometimes it's the little details that can make the biggest impact on a patient's quality of life...
Dementia is becoming increasingly prevalent in the UK as up to 850,000 people live with it in some form. It’s progressive, degenerative and one of the greatest health challenges of our time. The experience of families watching the deterioration of a loved one as their memories slowly fade is heart breaking.
As nurses, care assistants and support workers, we can make this time less distressing for both the person and their family by focusing on promoting quality of life. Person-centred care that supports wellbeing and independence can help the individual with dementia retain their dignity and identity for as long as possible.
'Person-centred' simply means ensuring the individual and their needs are at the centre of everything we do as health professionals. Their abilities should be promoted and choices respected, which can be difficult, especially in the latter stages of dementia as memory and decision-making declines. In addition to providing patient, compassionate care, we can also help to make the physical environment more ‘dementia-friendly’ in 5 ways:
5. Maximise natural light during the day and darkness at night
Natural light is important for a person to know where they are in their surroundings but also whether it’s morning, evening or night. Try opening the curtains and letting as much light in during the day and closing them at night. The visual clues as to the time of day will help someone feel more grounded in their daily routine.
4. Minimise trip hazards, uneven surfaces and obstacles.
Changes in the texture or colour of a floor can be a trip hazard for someone with dementia. They may view it as something to avoid or step over, which could cause a fall. For instance, a darker coloured doormat can look like a hole in the floor.
Closed doors can also present an obstacle for someone with dementia, so keeping doors open, especially the bathroom door (when not in use), can help someone identify where they need to go.
3. Play familiar music.
Research has shown playing music that’s personal to the individual can help their mood and communication. In a recent trial in a hospital setting, one person who had previously been withdrawn and disorientated began singing loudly when they heard the familiar music.
Another person who had previously not engaged in conversation became animated and engaged after playing her music.
2. Keep items in the same place every day.
For someone with memory difficulties, remembering where objects are can be difficult and they might find it frustrating when something isn’t where they remember it. If the person has a specific place they keep their glasses, keys or other personal items, try to encourage the return of those items after use. The more independent a person with dementia can be, the more comfortable they will feel.
1. Use colour contrasting crockery and cutlery.
Objects that have a colour contrast are more easily identifiable than those of similar colour, so it’s easier to see a plate if it’s a different colour to the food that’s on it. However, stripes and patterns on crockery can look confusing. A patterned table cloth may also make it harder for someone with dementia to make out where their food is, so stick with plain colours for tableware. Being able to eat independently can help improve wellbeing and quality of life for someone with dementia.
Developing your knowledge of dementia care further...
Newcross is committed to becoming a dementia-friendly organisation and we’re encouraging every team member to sign up to become a dementia friend. It’s a free initiative run by the Alzheimer’s Society and provides a foundation level of knowledge on dementia, its nature and how to support someone with any combination of symptoms.
Newcross also offers Excellence in Dementia Care training courses in all our local branches, which will give you both underpinning knowledge and practical skills. We include sections on developing effective communication, understanding person-centred care and how to recognise different needs. Contact your local branch to find out when a course is on near you. ♦
L E A R N I N G P O I N T
The term ‘dementia’ is an umbrella term for symptoms caused by a range of conditions, all of which affect the brain differently. Memory loss, reduced motor skills, impaired ability to communicate and unpredictable emotional responses can all be a result of a type of dementia.
This story was originally published in the Autumn 2016 Edition of Newcross News.
For ideas, inspiration and more stories about Newcross, pick up your free a copy from you local branch.