Currently there are an estimated 800,000 people suffering from dementia in the UK and two thirds of those are living in the community. The number of sufferers is expected to double over the next 40 years, however new research suggests many families do not know how to cope when a family member is diagnosed.
According to Professor Graham Stokes (director of dementia care at Bupa) there are four stages of dementia: memory loss and confusion, unusual behaviour, losing grip of reality and finally dependency. The rate of which people go through these stages varies and is dependent on their response to the disease. Prof Stokes does state that if the sufferer is not getting adequate support, they are likely to deteriorate at a faster rate.
Making a few adjustments to their living space could make all the difference and help to keep them safer and healthier.
- If food stored in the kitchen is visible it is more likely to be eaten – consider removing cupboard doors or fitting clear glass/plastic doors. Many dementia sufferers are at risk of malnutrition because they forget to eat.
- Use white plates – the colour contrast between the plate and the food will make meal times less visually distressing.
- Have plenty of spoons – they are easier to handle than a knife and fork.
- Make it familiar – duvets are a relatively new concept so consider using sheets and blankets.
- Display family pictures and familiar books by the bed.
- Label drawers – reduce the amount of clothes to the essentials and label drawers with simple words like ‘jumpers’ and ‘socks’.
- Illuminate a path – fit a night light outside the bathroom to help them find the bathroom at night.
- Opt for contrasting colours – a brightly coloured toilet will stand out from the rest of the bathroom, making it easier to find.
- Keep toiletries to a minimum – have one bottle of each product and label them.
- Make your house number clear and visible.
- Keep a spare key in a safe lock-box or with a neighbor.
- Keep the path leading to the door clear of trip hazzards.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, yourself and the sufferer could benefit from discussing any issues you face with a counsellor. For more information, please see our Dementia page.
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