These are relatively cheap and come in all shapes and sizes. We hung ours in my Dad’s kitchen and use it for various messages that he refers to throughout the day. Messages like ‘Drink plenty of water!!’, ‘Jules and the family are on holidays in Devon right now’, ‘Has Alfie got water in his bowl?’.
Dad’s Christmas stocking always includes a large calendar with a monthly view per page. This is now ensconced on his kitchen table with a pen on a string attached (this is very important, pens can never be found when you need them!). When we’re on the phone to him, if anything needs to be recorded, we ask him to jot it in to his calendar. At the end of the call, we would check and ask something like ‘do you have anything in the diary for Friday?’. More often than not, he tells us that his diary has a note in for Friday. Yes!
Again, the kitchen was the best place for this. These large digital clocks clearly display the time, date and year. By habit, he refers to it all the time so ‘what day is it’ is less frequently asked!
We might be accused of going overboard on labels but they work well for us. We stick these address sized labels on all kinds of things around the house. For example, food plates are labelled ‘Beef dinner – freeze this’, ‘Monday dinner’, ‘Tuesday dinner’ etc. We have labels on the TV stand with the channel numbers attached and an instruction label on the much loved turntable, to name but a few!
It’s well publicised that routine is key. Dad and I would totally agree. If a new event is announced too early, it can cause a lot of stress. If there’s a Doctor’s appointment coming up or a family event looming, we now tend to announce these maybe only one or two days beforehand with very clear instructions as to the plan of action. We write these on to the whiteboard and would generally jot them in to his calendar too.
A few minutes will set this up. During the Summer months, for example, there’s a picture of Ice Pops on the fridge door to remind my Dad of the homemade ice lollies in the freezer (good for hydration too!). We have also, for example, printed out simple instructions (written instructions work fine too!) for the oven, turntable and alarm.
Just something I’m noticing more and more and have read a lot about but simply put, noise is an annoyance and seems to cause anxiety. That includes playful kids, loud TV, noisy restaurants. Be aware of this. You might not notice it at first so watch out for it and avoid too much noise.
Once I notified the Pharmacist of the situation with my Dad, they were great. They tell me when the prescription needs to be renewed, when it is ready for collection and even called me one day because they thought he wasn’t well.
If you are in a position to get the drugs in blister packs, it’s a great help. The days of the week and time of the day (Morning, Afternoon and Evening) are clearly laid out with the required drugs. It was a game changer in our situation.
This was tough and took a long time. I would suggest you prepare for this. Sounds crazy, but the message that your loved one has a dementia diagnosis can be delivered with a tone of doom or one of positivity. Yes, we’d prefer not to have it but it’s important that we train others on how to keep communicating with the person as they always did and to remember them as they used to be. In my case, my Dad is still the same person but with a short term memory issue! No need to talk louder to him or to ignore him or to treat him any differently. He’s still articulate and able to engage, just pardon the repetition from time to time and of course the forgetfulness.
It is ironic, sometimes funny and other times annoying when people (even Doctors) forget about the condition and ask things like ‘what did you do at the weekend’ or when they give detailed instructions on what exercises daily for a sore knee or whatever. Remember. They forget! And don’t get annoyed by this. It’s the condition, not the person.
Yes, prepare to repeat yourself. The upside is, you get to tell the same joke or the same good news story over and over again!
I know that some people spend a lot of time correcting their loved one with dementia. I’ve stopped doing this. I realised it was pointless. If they think someone is still alive, for example, there’s no point saying otherwise. The topic will pass quickly and there’s no point in causing anxiety or feelings of sadness. There’s also no point in correcting them if they got some details wrong. What does it matter? It’s ok for them to be wrong and for us to let it go.
A M A Z I N G! Play their old favourites. An instant mood booster, a great distractor and with fewer inhibitions than maybe ‘before’, they are happy to sing along!
So my Dad still enjoys tinkering around with engines, picking up bargains at car boot sales and we’ve let go the fact that this is causing some space issues! A chance gift from my sister to him one Christmas of an adult colouring book and markers has started a complete obsession with adult colouring. My Dad’s idea of a perfect evening is colouring in with his turntable blasting out the tunes. Total contentment!
Keep them social. Encourage them to keep doing the social outings that they always did. Maybe it’s now with a helping hand but that doesn’t matter. Try to create a routine where there are three or so outings a week. It doesn’t have to be big stuff just something that gets them out of the house and engaging with people. Grocery shopping, Choir, Garden Centre.
Get them to create new photo albums of old photos. Start a scrapbook or box of memories with photos, old toys, watches, glasses etc. This is such an enjoyable pastime and an excellent reference point for conversation during visits.
Written or printed, these are excellent on the back of the front door. Ours says ‘CHECK BEFORE YOU LEAVE’ and has a short checklist for Keys, Mobile phone, Alarm, Wallet.
So supporting your parent with early stage dementia doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming or complicated.
Tools like whiteboards, calendars, labels, drawings/photos can be really effective in the home.
Spending a little time creating a scrapbook or photo album, creating music play lists and focussing on hobbies is an investment worth making.
How you tell family, friends and those in the neighbourhood is worth preparing for in advance. You get to own and control the message.
It’s also our chance to educate those around us on how to keep engaging with the person and not the condition.
Alzheimers Society UK has a useful blog on how to make the home dementia friendly, you can read it here; https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/10-ways-make-your-home-dementia-friendly.
Written by: Adrienne O’Hara, founder of Cognect.com. Learn more about how Cognect is helping families to support their golden age parents, to live independently in their own homes for longer.
The content is intended for general information only and does not constitute financial, legal, medical or other forms of advice and therefore should not be relied upon for such purposes. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.