22 December 2014
How to Choose a Care Home for Dementia Care
When choosing a care home for dementia care, it’s important to remember that people living with dementia have different needs to others. These needs are an important factor in deciding on a care home, as they will need to be met to ensure your loved one can still enjoy a good quality of life with the dignity and respect they deserve. In this article, we’ve listed a number of needs that people with dementia have along with examples on how to address these. While you visit care homes for your loved one, keep these needs in mind so you can assess whether the care home has the skills to look after them.
Sticking To a Familiar Daily Routine
People with Alzheimer’s or other forms of progressive dementia will at some point need the help from a carer to organise their day. Without structure, a person with dementia may experience excessive agitation and an unstable mood. A lack of structure may also lead to missing meals, skipping bathing or can cause sleep disturbances.
Daily routines help provide a sense of comfort and control for people living with dementia, providing familiarity necessary to plan, take part in and complete an activity, which can otherwise be impaired. Dementia can cause short attention spans and distractions, as well as a reduction in short-term memory. Establishing a daily routine can help transfer this information into the brain’s long-term memory, ensuring every day activities like eating, drinking or personal hygiene are not forgotten.
An important thing to remember however, is that any daily routine created for a person living with dementia must resemble what they are used to. For example, if your loved one always used to enjoy taking a walk every Wednesday, reading the newspaper on a Sunday, or having a slice of toast and orange juice for breakfast at 6:30 am, then their new routine must also incorporate those same habits. This builds a sense of familiarity to any relatively new situation, such as moving into a care home, and can really help put people living with dementia at ease.
Our team therefore work closely with the family and loved ones to ensure that any routine created for residents with dementia closely matches what they are used to experiencing. When new residents join us, we ask them to complete an ‘about me’ book along with their family, which allows us to get a better picture of their lives prior to coming to us. This means we can set up daily routines that are familiar to our residents, helping them feel at ease in their new environment.
Catering for Emotional Needs
Dementia can cause a range of difficult feelings, including anxiety caused by unfamiliar surroundings, frustration due to failure at certain tasks, or isolation due to a lack of communication. While it’s impossible to change a person’s situation, we can help support them through it. For example, encouraging a person with dementia to complete a task that they can do on their own can really help build up their self-esteem. However, if part of the task causes frustration, then it would be appropriate to offer help so they can complete the rest of the task.
Another common occurrence for people with dementia is grieving for the loss of a friend or relative who may have died many years ago. While it might be tempting to dismiss this or try and offer a distraction, this can cause people to feel isolated. People with dementia can experience their pasts more vividly than the present, so it’s important to offer them relief and letting them talk about these experiences.
Similarly, people with early dementia may be aware of their memory problems, which can cause anxiety and fear. In this situation, it’s important to remember it’s impossible to know exactly how another person feels, so a good way to respond is to acknowledge their fears and concerns, showing they are not alone with their problems.
Empathy is an important aspect of dementia care as a result, as carers need to deal with situations like the ones above on a daily basis. Our team at Hallmark Care Homes are trained with this in mind, helping Hallmark residents with dementia to feel valued, respected and part of the community, without feeling like they have to tackle dementia on their own.
Catering for Reduced Communication Skills
A reduction in communication skills is one of the effects of dementia, and can cause difficulty with day to day life. It can become harder for people living with dementia to express their true feelings and thoughts, which may lead to feelings of isolation in social situations. One sign that someone is affected by dementia is when they can’t find the right words, often trying to substitute an incorrect word instead, or alternatively they may have difficulty expressing illness or discomfort.
It can also make every day activities like choosing food more difficult as word association becomes harder, not to mention memory loss, which can make people with dementia forgot what they asked for!
Our team is trained to communicate with residents living with dementia, for example by speaking slowly and calmly, using simple, short sentences, and including the person in conversation with others. This sense of inclusion can help a person living with dementia to preserve their sense of identity, and reduce feelings of isolation. Our team know that Hallmark residents living with dementia shouldn’t be talked about as if they weren’t there, or as if they were a young child, instead ensuring they are shown respect and patience.
Similarly, our team members help residents living with dementia to communicate in other ways, for example at dinner time. Because it can be hard to choose a meal if you don’t remember what your favourite food is called, meals are served in a buffet format, allowing residents to choose based on other stimulants such as sight and smell, ensuring they get what they want.
Discover more about effective care for people living with dementia here.