Caring for Dementia at Home
For someone living with dementia, particularly in the early and mid-stages of the condition, there really is no place like home. Being in a familiar environment helps prevent confusion and disorientation, which helps the person to feel safe and secure as well as enables them to maintain their independence with the highest quality of life.
Research shows home is better for those with dementia
Now more than ever, it’s important to remember that home help remains a wonderful solution to what is unmistakably a very complex problem for all involved.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine in the US found that “keeping a loved one with dementia at home helps them be happier and live longer”.
A scientific study in Germany comparing the outcomes of people who lived at home with dementia, versus those with the condition in aged care facilities, found that “patients in senior citizens’ homes had a higher relative dying risk of around 53.1%, than those cared for at home”.
US aged care expert Carol Bradley Bursack says the biggest advantage of home care is that it allows people with dementia to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.
“This option is far less disorienting for a dementia patient than a move to an assisted living facility, a memory care unit or a nursing home,” Ms Bradley Bursack says.
“Familiar environments offer a great deal of security and peace of mind for individuals with memory issues.”
Adapting the Home
By making a few adaptations in the home, it can help someone living with dementia to maintain their independence to perform daily tasks. Consider the following home modications:
- Avoid patterns on carpet, wallpaper, tablecloths, bedding or furnishings as these can be confusing, try to stick to plain colours.
- Use contrasting colours for floors, walls and furnishings, to help identify them.
- Place frequently used items in the line of sight and at an accessible height.
- Group common items together. For example, group tea, coffee, sugar, mugs in the kitchen. Group a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss in the bathroom.
- Use transparent canisters and label them. Use labels on cupboards or replace solid doors with transparent ones, to view items easily.
- Consider using contrasting colours for items in table settings (such as placemats, plates, tablecloths and glassware) to help identify them.
- Have games, jigsaw puzzles and photo albums available and set up areas for meaningful activities, favourite hobbies or pastimes.
- Use block-out curtains or blinds to regulate sleeping patterns and prevent shadows on windows from trees and shrubs outside.
- Labelling drawers and cupboards to identify items may help or removing wardrobe doors to view items easily.
With a few adaptations, there are many ways that someone living with dementia can continue to live independently in their home, especially with the support of a home care provider.
Home Care Options are Available
But exactly what are the home care options for a loved one with dementia? There are many, depending on your family’s needs and requirements. Home Instead can provide anything from one or two home visits a week all the way to around-the-clock care. The right home care provider will be able to adapt the care required as your loved one’s needs progress.
In addition, the government offers subsidised care to help people over 65 to remain independent in their own home and can provide services such as meal preparation, domestic help, transport to outings or appointments and bathing/hygiene. If someone is living with dementia, they may be eligible for The Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) or for a Home Care Package (HCP) which is designed for those with more complex care needs. You can also access similar services through a private care provider.
Relationship-based care is at the heart of the services that Home Instead provides, with highly-trained CAREGivers able to support someone living with dementia. In addition, we place huge importance on continuity of the same CAREGivers to help build amazing relationships with our clients, and this is especially valuable for someone living with dementia as it helps to provide familiarity and enables the CAREGivers to develop knowledge about their background and routine.
Home Instead can review your family’s individual needs and offer a solution that works for you all.
Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding but it can also be challenging; it may be physically demanding and may be emotionally exhausting. When caring for someone living with dementia, it can also be distressing to witness changes in behaviour that may occur as the condition progresses. For some carers, this may lead to exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed by the situation, sometimes referred to as compassion fatigue.
Taking small and regular breaks from the role of caring can help prevent compassion fatigue. However, it’s often easier said than done. Family carers are especially at risk of exhaustion and utilising specialist residential care or home care for their loved one living with dementia, even temporarily, can provide much-needed respite services for the family carer. In-home respite can provide support at short notice for as little as a couple of hours, for a few days or even longer. The options are flexible and allow family carers the opportunity to plan and take some valuable time out.
I Want to Go Home
A common issue for people living with dementia in assisted care facilities is that they often tell carers they want to go home. Despite deterioration in the short-term memories of people with dementia, many remain painfully aware that they are no longer in their normal surroundings.
The Alzheimer’s Society in the UK has even addressed this issue by compiling a list of things for professional carers to say to dementia patients who repeatedly ask to go home.
Advice on their website states: “It is not uncommon for a person with dementia in residential care to say they want to go home… (it) can be distressing for everyone. The desire to go home is probably the same desire anyone would have if we found ourselves in a strange and unreasonable place.”
Certainly one of many important goals when caring for someone with dementia is to prevent causing them extra distress. So it makes sense to keep them living at home, in their own familiar and comfortable surroundings, for as long as possible.
At the heart of the matter though, is the best interests of the person at the centre – your loved one with dementia. There’s strong evidence they’ll be happier and healthier for longer, being cared for at home.