1. A person with dementia may not recognise people they know or struggle to identify objects when their sight is perfectly fine. This is because their brain has to interpret and process what they see. My mum confused her purse with her television remote control and generally struggled to identify objects and sometimes people. Yet her eyesight was perfectly fine. That said, it’s important for the person to have regular eye checks.

  1. Noisy environments or social occasions where there are many different conversations taking place can cause confusion and be distressing for a person with dementia. Try to avoid putting them in crowded or noisy environments.

 

  1. Social interaction is hugely important for a person with dementia. Conversation, even if it’s limited or they don’t remember much, will help to keep them stimulated. In the earlier stages of her condition, my mum lived at home on her own. I noticed a huge difference when I first arrived at her house compared to when I left after being with her for several hours. She was much more alert and engaged after having company. Try not to leave the person on their own for long periods – not just for their safety but for their emotional wellbeing. If conversation is becoming difficult, even sitting with the person and showing them books with photographs and generally keeping them company is a good thing.

 

  1. A person with dementia can become angry and in some cases accuse you of wrongdoing, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. My mum once confused me with another relative, who wasn’t kind to her, and said ‘I know what you’re up to’. I was very upset at the time, but an hour later, it was forgotten and she was back to her old self. I took it personally but later realised it wasn’t directed at me.

 

  1. Mirrors can cause distress to a person with dementia, because they may think they are younger than they really are and not recognise the ‘old person’ staring back at them. My mum was found berating herself in the mirror by the care home staff. She thought the old lady staring at her was someone else. She just didn’t recognise herself.

 

  1. Dementia is progressive and unfortunately there is no cure. This means that a person’s ability to remember things, communicate and understand will gradually decline. Over time, they will gradually lose their independence and will become completely dependent on you for help and support. This means it’s important to plan for the future and talk to the person early on about the type of care they would like to receive in future.

 

  1. A person with dementia may not know what stage of their life they’re at. They may not know if they are retired, still working or whether loved ones are still alive. They can move through different stages of their life. My mum was 80 when she thought she was still a teenager. This is normal.

 

  1. It’s not a good idea to tell a person that their loved one has died. If they ask you where a deceased person has got to, you can try to distract them and change the subject, as telling them that a loved one has died may result in them grieving all over again. If changing the subject doesn’t work, you could answer the question with a question if you’re not comfortable telling a white lie. My mum used to ask why my father hadn’t come home from work. I used to point to the window and say: ‘Look at the traffic, it’s terrible’, then offer her a cup of tea. It always worked.

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