Caring for someone living with dementia

Practical support

If you care for a friend or relative, you are entitled to a Carers’ Assessment from your local council, no matter how much care you provide. This will look at what support you need. It should consider:

  • Your health and wellbeing
  • Emotional support
  • Breaks from caring
  • Practical help, such as housework or gardening
  • Training
  • Travel assistance

You may also be entitled to Carers’ Allowance.

Emotional support

It’s important that you look after your own emotional wellbeing and mental health. If you’re feeling low, anxious or stressed, consider talking to a friend, family member or your GP.

Talking to someone who is in a similar situation can help. Credu and The Alzheimers Society provide advice and support for Carers.

Communicating

People living with dementia can get confused or find it difficult to express what’s on their mind. It may help if you:

  • Speak clearly and slowly, rather than raising your voice
  • Make sure that any hearing aids are working properly
  • Offer simple choices
  • Write things down

Past memories

Dementia usually affects short-term memory loss most severely. Talking about older memories can be comforting for you and the person living with dementia. You could:

  • Look at old photographs and postcards
  • Listen to music
  • Visit places
  • Be aware that in some cases recalling memories can cause distress.
  • Recognise that this reality is different from yours – go with it rather than contradicting their version, which can be distressing.

Personal care

The person you are caring for may need reminders or help with personal care but, if possible, you should encourage them to do as much as possible for themselves.

You could help by:

  • Letting them choose what they want to wear.
  • Laying out clothes in the right order
  • Getting slip-on shoes or easy-fastening clothes (such as Velcro instead of buttons)

If they need help with washing, you might want to request an assessment of their care needs. Speak to Powys People Direct on 01597 827666 to request a care needs assessment.

 

Eating

Some people living with dementia lose their appetite or find it difficult to use cutlery or swallow food. They may also get distracted or restless during meal times. You could:

  1. Lay the table simply
  2. Buy specially designed cutlery to make eating easier
  3. Have meals at the same time every day
  4. Minimise distractions, such as visitors or TV during meal times

The Disabled Living Foundation has advice on different types of aids.

If they have difficulty swallowing, ask their GP for a referral to a speech and language therapist who specialises in swallowing problems.

 

Continence

Incontinence can be a problem for someone living with dementia but it’s important to check that it isn’t caused by some other medical condition that could be treated. If it isn’t treatable, their GP can contact a local continence adviser or service for you, and there are free products available from the NHS, such as washable absorbent bed pads and incontinence pads.

Contact the Bladder and Bowel Foundation for information and advice.

 

Walking

Someone living with dementia may pace around or try to leave a room or their house. They may be searching for something or trying to keep up with an old routine. They may also be bored or restless. Going for regular accompanied walks or taking exercise can help. A referral can be made to Powys Careline for IT aids.

 

Aggressive behaviour

Some people living with dementia may show aggressive behaviour, either verbal or physical. It is a symptom of the disease and may be a reaction to something they are frightened about or they may be anxious or bored.  A psychiatrist or community psychiatric nurse (CPN) may be able to advise and help you manage aggression or agitation. Make sure it gets mentioned at appointments with the consultant and there are regular medication reviews.

 

Finding suitable accommodation

Many people with dementia can live at home for a long time but there may come a time when they need to move into specialist accommodation. Options include:

If the person you are caring for needs to move, contact Powys People Direct on 01597 827666 to request a free care needs assessment.

Making decisions

The person you are caring for should set up a lasting power of attorney (LPA) while they still have mental capacity so that someone they trust can make decisions for them about their finances and healthcare. They can also make advance decisions and statements to specify how they would like to be cared for.

If they lose mental capacity and they haven’t set up an LPA, you can apply to the Court of Protection to become a deputy. This can be a lengthy and expensive process so it’s better to set up an LPA while they still can. To find out more go to https://www.gov.uk/become-deputy

DWP Appointeeship

Become an appointee for someone claiming benefits

You can apply for the right to deal with the benefits of someone who can’t manage their own affairs because they’re mentally incapable or severely disabled.

Only 1 appointee can act on behalf of someone who is entitled to benefits (the claimant) from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

An appointee can be:

  • an individual, eg a friend or relative
  • an organisation or representative of an organisation, eg a solicitor or local council

Appointee’s responsibilities

As an appointee you’re responsible for making and maintaining any benefit claims. You must:

  • sign the benefit claim form
  • tell the benefit office about any changes which affect how much the claimant gets
  • spend the benefit (which is paid directly to you) in the claimant’s best interests
  • tell the benefit office if you stop being the appointee eg, the claimant can now manage their own affairs

If the benefit is overpaid, depending on the circumstances, you could be held responsible.

Apply to become an appointee

Who you phone to apply to depends on the benefit:

 

Dementia and the Mental Health Act

Occasionally a person living with dementia behaves in a way that puts themselves or others at risk and they may need to go into hospital. This can be voluntary or they may be detained under a section of the Mental Health Act, sometimes known as ‘being sectioned’. If you think the person you are caring for needs to be detained in hospital in order to receive care or treatment, contact the local mental health team, your GP, or the emergency services if the situation is urgent.

Next steps

The Alzheimer’s Society has advice and useful resources for Carers of people living with dementia at https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/. They also have an online directory of services Dementia Connect

Dementia UK offers support to people living with dementia and their families. Go to https://www.dementiauk.org/