Day to Day Living
If you are caring for someone with dementia, you will want to ensure that they remain as fit and healthy as possible. The better the person feels the more enjoyment they are likely to get from life and the easier it will be for both of you to manage.
Communicating our needs, wishes and thoughts is vital. Dementia affects how we communicate, even in the early stages.
We all need to communicate; it is part of our identity and vital for our quality of life. We tend to think about communication as talking, yet over 90% of communication happens through non-verbal communication such as facial expression, gestures and touch.
Take your time. Be patient and understanding and keep your sense of humour, it helps!
Dementia affects how we communicate; each person’s experience is different. Below are tips and techniques to help.
- Reduce background noise and distractions such as TV or radio or other people’s conversations
- Try to make eye contact
- Speak slowly, clearly and calmly
- Listen carefully and allow plenty of time for the person to respond to you
- Make sure your body language and expression match what you are saying
For a full list of tips for communicating with a person with dementia download the resource Communication by clicking here
Driving and dementia
A diagnosis of dementia does not mean a person must stop driving straightaway. However, a diagnosis does mean that certain things must be done to continue to drive. A person with dementia must inform the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) about their diagnosis. The driver must also inform their car insurance company to ensure their insurance is still valid.
The person with dementia will need to their GP about these steps and their GP can guide you on each one. More information on steps to take when driving with dementia can be seen by clicking here
Most drivers with dementia accept that over time dementia affects their ability to drive safely. With guidance and support from family and healthcare professionals, they will engage with regular assessments and limit their driving when required. Most people will also engage in planning to stop driving and decide themselves they no longer want to drive.
Supporting a person with dementia to stop driving
The decision to stop driving can have a big impact on both the person with dementia and their family. It does indicate that their dementia has progressed and for many people the loss of independence is very difficult to cope with.
Some people with dementia feel relieved to stop driving and are comfortable finding new ways to get out and about. However, even people who willingly give up driving may feel sad and low in mood in the weeks and months that follow the decision. They may be irritable and defensive. It is important that their doctor is aware of any changes in mood and behaviour following the decision.
Family members and friends can help and support, things you can do include:
- Allow the person to talk about it if they want to, acknowledge it is difficult.
- Be positive, focus on the benefits that come with not having a car for example:
- no need to navigate traffic and find parking,
- no longer paying for car insurance, tax or fuel,
- no more organising or paying for car service and repairs.
- Encourage the person to see that it is still possible to get out and about and do things. Take the time to help them figure out new ways to travel. A mix of public and private transport services, family and friends can often provide realistic options. For example,
- some people set up an account with a local taxi company who get to know the person and their family and often offer an agreed rate for frequent use,
- Local bus services can be very useful and provide an opportunity to meet people,
- Sometimes friends and neighbours go to the same club or have the same hobby and are open to giving a lift.
- Highlight the Free Travel Scheme, which entitles anyone 66 years or older to free travel on public transport (bus, rail, DART and Luas) with some exceptions. Some private bus operators also accept free travel cards. The Department of Social Protection website provides a list of these companies.
Assistive technology can be a product, gadget or system that help support and enable you to live more independently, provide support and reassurance and reduce the risk of accidents.
Different technologies will suit different people and assistive technology will not suit everyone. You may need to try different options to find the solution that suits you.
Assistive technology can help your loved one be more independent and to help you manage daily life. These include the following:
- staying safe out and about by using routines, adapting activities and using assistive technologies such as location or safer walking devices
- get automatic help with telecare which can be as basic as having a smoke detector
- keep everyday activities safe with the help of technology such as bath alarms or motion-sensor night lights
While assistive technology will not work on it’s own, it can be part of the plan you make to help you and your family to live well with dementia.
For more information read our ‘Practical steps to support your independence‘ booklet which is a for people with dementia and their families. People with mild cognitive impairment and people who are experiencing memory problems may also find this booklet helpful.
In this booklet we explain what assistive technology is; give examples of how assistive technology can help you with daily life; and tell you where you can go and who you can speak to about accessing assistive technology. Click here to download a copy.
Where to find assistive technology?
The following websites have lists of products and details about who you can order from
Dementia Circle: Funded by The Alzheimer Society in Scotland, this website has reviews from people with dementia and their families who have tested products; they also have helpful information sheets.
AT Dementia: provides information about assistive technology products. The website in based in England but many of suppliers listed deliver to Ireland. The site has lots of information leaflets to help you make decisions about what technology works for you.
Memory Libraries in Ireland
There are a number of memory libraries and memory resource rooms which have assistive technology products on display.
You can arrange a visit by contacting the library you wish to visit. The libraries are run by the Health Service Executive, HSE. Most have an occupational therapist who can meet with you to discuss your needs.
For a list of all Memory libraries in Ireland click here
It is important for the person with dementia to stay independent for as long as possible. You should encourage the person and only offer help when it is necessary.
As dementia progresses the person may find certain tasks increasingly difficult, while they may be able to cope with others for some time. Adjust any help you offer accordingly so that they can continue to make the best use of the skills they still possess. Ways of helping that may be appropriate at different times include:
- Being able to complete a task when it is broken down into step by step process. For example lay clothes out the order that the person is getting dressed.
- Pointing, demonstrating or guiding an action may sometimes be more helpful than verbal explanations at later stages. For example, the person may be able to brush their own hair if you start by gently guiding their hand.
- Encouragement to help out with simple tasks around the house and garden will enable the person with dementia to practise everyday skills and feel useful at the same time.
- Memory aids can assist in doing daily tasks and skills such as noticeboards, labels etc.
- Attending social clubs or day care centres can help to stay social.
Safety in the home
There are many ways you can make your home safe for a person with dementia. You will just need to be alert for changes in capabilities over time as the dementia progresses.
An occupational therapist can assist you in getting aids and equipment to help with daily living such as handrails, a bath step or a walking stick.
Adjustments you can make in the home include:
- Make sure lighting is bright
- Leave a light on in the hallway if the person with dementia is likely to wander at night
- Ensure there are no loose carpets or mats which could cause a person to fall
- Place medicines in a safe location
- Lock away any poisonous substances such as cleaning products, disinfectant or paint stripper for example.
Caring at Christmas
Christmas can be a wonderful time for family and friends. At the best of times it can also be overwhelming.
When caring for a loved one with dementia, it can easily feel all too much. However, with some planning and some adjustments, this holiday can be enjoyable for everyone.
Some tips you can use this festive season include:
- Have realistic expectations, things may need to be different but still enjoyable for everyone;
- Talk to family and friends in advance about what you both feel is needed to make the day work for everyone;
- Try to stagger visitors and visiting;
- If there are lots of visitors, your loved one may appreciate someone staying beside them to help prompt with names and support conversation;
- On Christmas day involve the person with dementia in the preparations, for example setting the table, preparing vegetables or a festive activity such as singing carols.