Looking after someone with Dementia

Dementia is a set of symptoms that might include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.

Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by disease. Many of these diseases are associated with an abnormal build-up of proteins in the brain. This build-up then causes nerve cells to function less well and ultimately die. As the nerve cells die, different areas of the brain shrink. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but this is not the only cause. Others causes may be vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies or frontotemporal dementia.

How might it affect the person I am caring for?

The specific symptoms that someone with dementia experiences will depend on the parts of the brain that are damaged and the disease that is causing the dementia. Some of the common sorts of problems they might have is:

  • Poorer day-to-day memory – for example, difficulty recalling events that happened recently, or asking questions repeatedly that have already been answered.
  • Difficulty concentrating, planning or organising – for example, unable to make decisions or find it hard to problem solve or carrying out a sequence of things to complete a task.
  • Difficulties with language – for example, finding it hard to follow a conversation or not being able to think of the right word for something.
  • Poorer visuospatial skills – for example, problems judging and seeing objects in three dimensions.
  • Feeling disorientated – for example, losing track of the day or date, or becoming confused about where they are. Dorset Police have information on the Herbert Protocol, a a simple risk-reduction tool to help the police in their search for people with dementia who go missing.

Coping with these changes as a carer

It can be difficult to see a loved one struggle to remember, or change from the person you knew. Dementia can affect their behaviour and mood and this can be difficult to cope with. For instance, they may become frustrated or irritable, apathetic or withdrawn, anxious, easily upset or unusually sad. With some types of dementia, the person may see things that are not really there or strongly believe delusions that are not true.

If you are struggling with their changes in behaviour, Alzheimer’s Society has some great resources for coping and managing challenging, difficult or upsetting behaviour in someone with dementia. You can read more on the Alzheimer’s Society website.

Some key things to think about to help manage these symptoms may be:

  • A regular schedule or daily routine
  • Doing activities together and talking to the person you care for as much as you can
  • Arranging activities that they like or used to like
  • Try not to argue even when they beliefs or thoughts are not true, this can become more distressing for both of you
  • Keep familiar or sentimental items nearby so they can be used as a means of comfort.

If you are waiting for a memory test appointment for your cared for, Next Steps is a offers information about what to expect and where to go for support through this process and if you get a diagnosis.

What activities could I do with the person I’m caring for?

Dorset Libraries Reminiscence – There are a number of groups across Dorset with different themes each session to give you a chance to reminiscence with the person you care for and others. For example, many Dorset Libraries provide Reminiscence groups , although currently their events are virtual only. You can find out more about their events on the Dorset Libraries Website.

Stepping into Nature across Dorset – They provide outdoor activities for people with dementia and their carers. Their website provides resources and places to visit with the person you care for.

Alzheimer’s Society – Provide a number support and activity groups for those with dementia and their carers. You can find your local one on the Alzheimer Society’s find support near you page.

Other local support groups for carers and those for dementia: 

There are the following support groups and organisations in Dorset for carers and those with dementia:

  • Step Ahead group, Blandford Forum – first Wednesday of each month for carers of people with memory problems. Contact  01258 480762.
  • Dementia Action Alliance, Blandford Forum. Contact Anita Roberts 07834 593976 blandforddaa@outlook.com
  • Tricuro Shaftesbury Plus supports people living with dementia in Shaftesbury and surrounding areas and is open Monday- Saturday, 9am-4pm. Contact 01747 854959 or email enquiries@tricuro.co.uk
  • Growing Compassionate Communities – offers dementia walks, reminiscence sessions and carpet bowls in Corfe Mullen.

Memory cafes, music and singing

  • Age UK Wareham Melodies for Memories – first and third Friday each month. Contact Natalie Betts 07747 533252.
  • Age UK Melodies for Memories – Music and songs for cognitive stimulation (west Dorset). Contact Hilary Foggo – 01305 269444.Beaminster Melodies For Memories – every other Tuesday 10.30am-12.15pm at Abbeyfield House.
  • The Forget-me-not Songsters, meets at Community 2000, Easton, Portland every Wednesday, 10am-11.30am. Contact 01305 823789.

National Support

For information around understanding and supporting someone suffering from Dementia visit Alzheimer’s Society. Their website also has information around finding the right kind of respite care, considering a care home and end of life care.

They also operate the National Dementia Helpline: 0300 222 1122

Looking after yourself

Although, you are not the person experiencing dementia it can have a huge impact on you as a carer. You might know the person you care for is behaving in certain ways because of the dementia but even so it can still be challenging to deal with and take a huge emotional toll. Rose, in her carer story describes how difficult it because ‘The person you married and loved is not that person anymore, but it’s not their fault.’

Therefore, it’s important to have a space to talk about these changes and the effects it is having on you. This might be with a friend of relative. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to share this with you could register for our Here to talk befriending service. It can also be useful to write out how you are feeling or what has been happening. This could also be done as a support service, such as emailing the Samaritans on jo@samaritans.org.

If you feel you need more support you can email us at admin@carersupportdorset.co.uk or call us on 0800 368 8349, our opening hours are Monday-Thursday, 9.30am-4.30pm and Friday 9.30am-4pm. We also have a number of pages on mental health support if you are finding it difficult to cope.