Our Admiral Nurses are often asked by people who have early to mid-stage dementia for tips on how to communicate and manage life with dementia – from how to keep in control when feeling disorientated, to managing memory and dealing with the frustrations, and keeping attention on tasks.
Here are some tips for people with early/mid-stage dementia to help manage communication and daily life:
Keep it simple. For every task and activity always think ‘keep it as simple as I can’. Don’t take on tasks that are too complex, or ask for help and work in partnership with another person so they can help you complete the task.
Plan activities and tasks for when you are at your best. Some people function best in the morning, others in the afternoon, and some in the evening. Know what time of day works best for you, and if possible, do some of your main tasks or activities then.
Try and maintain a routine and stick to it every day. For example, you could try to eating your meals at the same time every day, and going to bed at the same time every day. Routines mean repetition and repetition may help with your memory.
Tell people if you are finding it difficult to speak with them, or you are not finding a task or activity easy. Being assertive and reminding people will help you. Ask them to speak slowly and simply, and be straightforward with you. If you are in a group, like at a dinner table, and you are not keeping up with the conversation remind people to stop, slow it down, and summarise what they just talked about.
Recognise your emotions – if you feel you are getting overwhelmed, confused, or overtaken by emotion, take a step back and calm yourself before re-starting the conversation, task or activity. Activities like listening to music can help you to calm down. Mozart is meant to be excellent music for calming the mind!
Make to-do-lists, use a diary to remind you of the dayor when you have to do a task or activity. Use a paper notebook or diary, or use technology like your computer or mobile phone to set up reminders. Just stick to what works for you, and what worked for you prior to being diagnosed with dementia, as this is a process that you are already used to.
Keeping a diary of what happened in the day is good as it will help your memory. Also, always keep a notebook on you so you can write down people’s names when you meet them as a reminder, or write notes on what they have told you.
Breaking down a task helps. For example, if you’re making a lasagne: Write a list of what you need to do, step by step, and keep the number of steps to make a lasagne to a minimum. Tick each step off the list as you go along to avoid repeating each step. So, write a list of the ingredients you need, check you have the ingredients, write a shopping list of ingredients that you need to buy, write down each step of how to make the lasagne. Then, as you carry out each of these steps, tick them off.
Have clothes that are easy to wear i.e. clothes that don’t require you to do up lots of buttons, zips and catches. Having dementia can have an affect not just on your memory but also your coordination.
Putting labels on things can be helpful. If you have jars that look similar – like for tea, coffee, and sugar – put labels (in words or a picture) on the front of each jar so you know what is in them. Don’t overload cupboards or drawers so you can easily find what you are looking for.
Reduce clutter as this will help you to not get disorientated. If you let papers, emails, bills build up in a pile you may become overwhelmed. Have a folder that you use to file bills so they don’t get lost. If you are struggling, don’t try and do it yourself, rather ask someone to help you and work in partnership with you. People are often happy to help if you have a disability and you tell them you need their help.
You can register for a care line button with your local authority for peace of mind. There are also products available that can help you to find lost items, like your keys, for example. Look at www.unforgettable.org.
Information for this post was kindly provided by Admiral Nurse Dave Bell.