The caregivers caring for loved ones with dementia deserve a grand round of applause and tools and ways to make the task easier. Judith Potts, in the following excerpt talks about some ways that could be helpful.
“Today is Dementia Carers’ Day – when the Carers’ Trust asks us all to remember the 670,000 unpaid carers in the UK, who are looking after relatives or friends who have developed dementia. The Carers’ Trust offers “action, help and advice”.
Two thirds of people with dementia live at home and, as the disease progresses, care becomes more difficult – and carers can begin to feel as isolated as the dementia patient.
Help and support come in several forms. Dementia UK’s wonderful Admiral Nurses – who are mental health nurses, specialising in dementia – support families and carers to better understand dementia by focusing on the needs of the carer as well as the patient. Family carers often need psychological support to understand and deal with their own feelings about dementia. The nurses will guide the family through the various stages of the disease and introduce a range of interventions that can help the patient live well with the condition – for instance, developing skills to improve communication which, in turn, helps to maintain relationships.
The Alzheimer Society’s website hosts an interactive map, which shows local support groups.
There are some very creative aides for use by carers at home, in a dementia café or a care home. The series of “Memory Bank” packs stand out as a stimulating resource for life story and reminiscence work and are highly recommended by those working with dementia patients.
The packs contain DVDs which use archive film footage of familiar scenes and themes, carefully selected to help dementia patients to re-discover past times with friends and family. Created and cleverly edited by the Yorkshire Film Archive, each DVD (which can be viewed on a television screen, a laptop, a tablet or a portable DVD player – or downloaded from the website) covers a different topic – from working life, schooldays, holidays, sporting fun, to fetes, fairs and fireworks. They come with “key discussion points” marked at the top of the screen – when a pause might allow the viewers to recall their own memories – plus guidance notes, and suggestions for activities. Background information on life and times over the past decades helps the younger carer and Memory Bank feeds into the requirements of the Care Quality Commission.
In May of this year, Ostrich – the website devoted to showing all the choices on care (money, legal matters, insurance, property, leisure, care, carers – “Taking Care of Life”) – launched Bob. Designed for people with dementia and endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Dementia Champion, Norman McNamara, Bob is a Locator Tracker, which can operate virtually anywhere in the world. It is monitored 24/7 by an accredited telecare centre, operated for Ostrich Care by the NHS.
Wandering is a common problem for people with dementia – whether out of the front door, out of a shop or just out of sight. Not only is being lost incredibly distressing for the patient, the frantic searching causes enormous stress for the carer. This device is the size of a matchbox and can be worn on a lanyard around the person’s neck. It stores the name of the next-of-kin or carer and any medical information relevant to the carrier.
Should someone wander away and become lost, the recovery process begins with a call from the carer to the monitoring centre, where the particular Bob can be located on the screen. If it appears that the person is in danger, the emergency services – who have worked closely to develop Bob – will be called. Each tracker has a unique number and it is the IME number and Sim card which will be used to track the user. Cards with these unique numbers are given to the carer or family.
Bob can be used, too, by someone recently diagnosed with dementia but who is still able to live independently. Giving great peace of mind, not only to the patient, but to his or her family, Bob is simple to use. Should the person become lost or confused, pushing the SOS button alerts the monitoring centre and the routine – previously chosen by the patient – is put into action or the emergency services are involved.” -Judith Potts