Dementia can cause a range of perceptual changes which can sometimes lead to a belief in a different reality. Some people with dementia struggle recognising where they are as home. Talking about a previous home as if they still live there can be a sign of wanting to be safe. Asking questions about homes from the past, and the people who lived there, is a powerful way to reconnect to feelings of love and safety.
Enter their world
One of the most difficult decisions a person can face when caring for someone with dementia is how far to support that person’s version of events.
People with dementia deserve respect and a key part of this is telling the truth as the first basis. However, it is often better to enter the world of the person with dementia rather than trying to reimpose the present moment on them.
It is important to ensure that a person with dementia is supported in a way that is kind, compassionate and causes them the least distress. Asking questions about a specific person or place may encourage them to reminisce, which can help them feel less confused or uncertain about where they are.
It may also be helpful to involve a specialist such as an Admiral Nurse or another health professional for advice on using Life Story work. This work is important for families and health professionals to see that dementia shouldn’t define a person. It also recognises what that person has achieved in their lives, who they are, the relationships they’ve formed, and places which have a specific meaning to them.
Taken together, this can form part of a care plan which can be shared between families and health professionals to ensure consistency in caring for the person with dementia.
It also serves as evidence of what responses work well for that person when they’re struggling to grasp a specific reality. This is all so important in addressing the needs of a person with dementia swiftly, compassionately and as truthfully as possible.
Tips for when someone with dementia doesn’t feel at home:
‘Enter their world’ and ask the person with dementia about the topic or memories they mention
Try not to challenge or correct the person in their confusion; this can often lead to distress
Alleviate the situation by providing a drink, or a hug, or even ‘going along with’ their version of events
Focus on the underlying emotion behind the person with dementia’s requests and respond accordingly
Look at Dementia UK’s resources on developing a ‘Life Story’ to help grasp a specific reality
Understanding changes in behaviour
We have a range of leaflets explaining symptoms associated with dementia, such as sundowning and delirium, plus tips for reducing distress behaviours