Caring for someone with dementia

Two older men and a child

There are 342,000 Australians living with dementia, 225,000 of them live in the community, not an aged care facility. Dementia deaths are on the rise in Australia and the disease is now the nation’s second biggest killer, after heart disease.

For those helping a relative or friend with dementia, much of your concern or fear may come from not knowing what is likely to happen in the future.

Many of Better Caring’s community of care workers have years of experience in dementia care.  They provide social, domestic and personal assistance for those living with dementia and their families. They understand the sadness and stress it can cause for relatives and friends.

“Every person living with dementia is different and every family situation is different, says Better Caring’s Care Worker, Debbie.

“We are all individuals with our own unique likes, dislikes, feelings and experiences. Maintaining a sense of self and identity can help the person living with dementia to feel more confident and reassured. For some, this
can mean completing the daily activities they are used to or following the same routines.”

Familiar surroundings and routines are reassuring to people with dementia and they are much happier living in their own home, however, that’s not always possible for everyone.

Common Symptoms of Dementia

Although there are common symptoms of dementia, each individual can be affected in different ways. Depending on the type of dementia and its progression, symptoms can include:

  • Memory loss – especially for more recent events. In the early stages of dementia, the person may misplace objects or forget what they were planning to do
  • Difficulty finding their way around, especially in new or unfamiliar surroundings
  • Problems finding the correct words or understanding what others are saying to them
  • Poor concentration
  • Problems learning new ideas or skills
  • Difficulties with thinking, such as having trouble using logic during a discussion
  • Problems in perception and judging distance, for example, missing the edge of a chair when attempting to sit down
  • Changes to physical abilities, such as difficulties coordinating movement during domestic chores.
  • Psychological changes, for example, becoming irritable, saying or doing inappropriate things or becoming suspicious or aggressive.

Being able to communicate is vital for all of us. In the early stages of dementia a person may struggle to find the right words or mix up the order of words while speaking. As their dementia progresses they may lose track of what they were saying mid-sentence or forget your name and the names of others close to them. They can also ask the same question again and again. This can be distressing for carers, family and friends.

As dementia progresses, a person may forget to eat or not remember how to cook properly. There it may be necessary for someone to be present for at least one meal a day to ensure the person has a healthy and adequate diet. Social contact is important, but taking the person out to a cafe’ or restaurant can be confusing or disruptive. Local councils and community groups provide planned activity groups and day centres, which some people with dementia enjoy and it gives the family carer a break.

Getting In-Home Help

As dementia progresses, the person may not have insight into their care needs and may be resistant to outside help. Therefore, help might be accepted more readily if it is introduced in the earlier stages of dementia.

In home care services can help with the personal care, for example, getting them up in the morning, showering and dressing them and putting them to bed at night. House work and shopping assistance can also be provided. The number and frequency of visits will depend on the needs of the individual.

Better Caring’s Community of Care Workers offer social and domestic assistance, as well as Personal Care assistance at around $25/hr.

Help your Care Worker

Getting to know the person is important for Care Workers. Working with Care Workers can help your loved one feel more at home and gain more enjoyment out of their days.  Try to talk to the Care Worker as much as you can about the person so they understand their needs and are aware of particular likes, dislikes and habits.

Share their life story

Telling their life story to a Care Worker is helpful, because it equips them with topics to talk about, ideas to base activities on and ways to interact and stimulate the person. Being able to participate in things they enjoy, like listening to their favourite music, or eating their favourite meal can be very reassuring.

Memory activities

You could help the Care Worker fill a ‘memory box’ or create a life board with meaningful items such as photos, books, items from their family or favourite hobbies. They may enjoy drawing a life ‘map’ of information, displaying when and where the person was born and grew up, where they got married, what jobs they had and favourite foods.

Financial assistance

The Federal Government offers subsidies for the care of people with dementia. You can find out if you qualify by going to www.myagedcare.gov.au.

Hire a Care Worker

To find a Care Worker with experience in dementia care, go to Better Caring – Find A Care Worker. It’s FREE to sign up and all workers are insured and undergo a rigorous onboarding process to check their police records, references and qualifications.