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Since there is no current cure for Dementia, many people may believe that there is no way we can help those with dementia. However, this is simply not the case. 

The question is: How can you help someone with dementia? 

A crucial thing to know when helping someone with Dementia is how to communicate with them effectively. When someone has dementia, they are likely not able to communicate as well as they once did. This means that the person caring for them will have to alter how they normally communicate in order to meet the needs of someone with dementia. 

Always remember to have a positive attitude and body language as this can set the mood for the interaction. Sit up straight and remember to smile. Speak to your loved one or the person you’re caring for in a respectful and pleasant manner. You can even use light, physical touch to convey your affection for the individual.  

Aim to get the individuals attention by limiting their outside distractions. You can do this by turning down the tv around them or shutting any doors around you both. Address them by their name to increase your chances of capturing their attention and identify who you are and your relationship to them. Repeat this information if you need to; this will decrease the chances of them being alarmed and confused about yourself and your intentions. 

Ask them simple questions that are easy to understand and offer them choices instead of asking them what they want. Be patient when they are responding as this could take time and respond to them with affection and reassurance; this will make them feel safer and more respected. Never tell them they are wrong and instead, make sure you pay a lot of focus to what they are saying.  

When it comes to helping someone with dementia with day-to-day activities, always break down the activities into steps as this makes them more manageable. Use visual cues and only encourage them to do what they can and not further than this. Remind them of steps as they may forget and reassure them that they are doing ok.  

What else can you do to help someone with dementia?

Listening to them when they are remembering the good old days and telling you stories is a key part in helping someone with Dementia. Allowing them to reminisce about the times of their life they remember will improve their mental and emotional health. It gives them the freedom to speak without confusion and relive their happy moments. As this might be the only time of their life they can speak about with no confusion, it is crucial you listen to them carefully even if they repeat the story several times. Always show interest in their stories and ask questions. Maintain your humour and try to make them laugh where you can.  

How do you handle troubling behaviour?

In terms of handling troubling behaviour when helping someone with Dementia, consider these ground rules: You cannot change the person, behaviour usually has a purpose and what works today may not work tomorrow. You have to accept the individual for who they are and if you try to change them, you will likely be met with resistance. Since someone with dementia cannot communicate as easily, if they are behaving differently; it’s probable that they are trying to communicate with you. Behaviour is always triggered; it occurs for a reason. It is a reaction to something you may have said or done that has upset them so be aware of this and try a different approach. You will have to adjust to trying a new approach every day as no two days are the same when caring and helping someone with dementia.  

What about Physical help?

Physical help is also an important factor to consider when caring for someone with dementia. Make sure they are eating a healthy, balanced diet and check with their doctor for any allergies they may have as the individual might have forgotten. Make sure they are getting regular exercise even if it is light. Help them with washing and bathing; make sure you are respectful at all times, take the correct safety precautions and maintain their dignity. When these activities are happening, always ask them if they are ok and reassure them you will not harm them.  

Sleep problems are common in people with dementia so be aware of this. You can help someone with dementia get a better night’s sleep by cutting out caffeine and alcohol out of their evening diet. Other tips include: setting them up a dementia friendly clock to show them whether it is day or night, making sure their bed is comfortable and ensuring their bedroom is fairly dark.  

How do we look after ourselves whilst helping someone with Dementia?

If you are struggling to cope with any side effects and emotional toil helping someone with dementia can result in, there are many ways you can reach out for help. Reach out to other carers or family members in the community. If your mental health starts to be affected by this, you should consider seeing your doctor or speaking to someone professionally.  

Last but certainly not least, always remember your personal health and state of mind. It is vital you take care of yourself before trying to help someone else, especially someone with a challenging condition. 

The best you will be the best helper to someone with dementia.