5 Positive Lifestyle Changes That Improve the Stages of Dementia
There is huge media interest these days about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Every day it seems there is a newspaper headline talking about a supposed cure or a celebrity who has been affected. Research indicates that because we are more aware of it, we are more afraid of it.
This is especially true of women. Women are more likely to get dementia, more likely to be family caregivers, and more likely to be working in one of the facilities that supports families and those affected. It’s a big issue for us.
To be honest, worrying will get you nowhere, and might even make things worse. The best thing is to concentrate on what you can practically do to ward off dementia.
What Can You Do to Help Someone with Dementia?
If dementia is affecting someone in your family, you can make a difference with lifestyle changes. This includes increasing exercise, keeping well hydrated, eating the right food and keeping active socially and mentally. There is lots of advice on how to help with the dementia journey.
Many people are unaware that there are things you can do to change the environment that will make a big difference. Here are my five top tips for things you can do at home.
Change as Little as Possible
People with memory problems seem to lose recent memories first. If you change color schemes and move furniture about, the person might seem pleased. But the next day when they wake up they might forget that they agreed to it, and that will cause agitation and distress. Leave well alone if the person is used to their environment.
Maximize the Light
People with dementia are usually older so they need more light just to see. All of us notice this with the passing years. You need a brighter light to read or thread a needle. If you have dementia you can’t remember where things are, and so being able to see them makes a huge difference.
Get more lamps in the room, and put brighter bulbs in them. Open drapes really wide so that light can come in. Cut down foliage from around windows and clean them.
Get Rid of Trip Hazards
I did say “don’t change anything” because of the risk of causing confusion. But to be honest, sometimes it is worthwhile. Anything that stops a person going into hospital is good. Hospitals are really bad for people with dementia.
Cut Down the Noise
For someone with dementia, too much noise is as disabling as a stairway would be for a person in a wheelchair. It stops them in their tracks. The brain effects of dementia make it hard to concentrate, or to separate out the background sounds that we used to be able to ignore. That makes listening and understanding even harder.
Remember that there is a lot of home technology that can help with entertainment and for safety. Skype and Facebook can transform a person’s life by bringing friends and family into the home without the need to go out and about. Of course getting out is really important, but if there are days when it is hard because of weather or availability of transport, you can have fun on screen.
These are simple affordable changes that you can make in your own home. Some of these ideas can be seen on a website designed by architects who work with academics on dementia friendly designs.
If you are a care partner helping someone with dementia, what lifestyle or environmental changes have worked for you? What advice would you give to a woman in our community who is about to take on the role of a dementia or Alzheimer’s caregiver?
June Andrews is an expert in the care of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and support for those who look after them. She is author of “When Someone You Know Has Dementia” and “Dementia the One Stop Guide”. You can learn more about June’s work at her website.