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Eight top tips for family carers

If you are looking after a loved one with dementia, it can be hugely challenging but there are things you can do to make life better for the person and for yourself. Here are a few top tips

Set up a system – you may not live with the person and you can’t do everything, so take the pressure off and organise any extra resources needed, such as meals on wheels, a cleaner, shopping deliveries and someone to help with DIY or gardening.

Lock away tablets – avoid the person taking medication unsupervised, as this could be unsafe if they forget they’ve already had their tablets. Lock medication away in a safe and arrange for carers to come in and ‘prompt’ the person to take tablets under their supervision.

Know who you can count on – unreliable family members or relatives who say they will visit the person with dementia and don’t turn up are no use to anyone. The person with dementia will be confused or upset about what’s happening and you will feel frustrated. Rule out anyone who lets you down.

Be prepared to repeat, repeat, repeat – the person with dementia may ask you the same questions constantly but it’s not their fault. Repeat the information as if you’ve said it for the first time. Don’t give them too much information at once. Be concise. Give them time to reply to what you are saying. Don’t point out you just told them that. It will only make them feel bad.

Encourage social interaction – don’t just put the person in front of the TV. Interaction with others is good for their mental wellbeing and brain health. At the same time, avoid noisy, crowded environments and accept that their moods can change suddenly. They may say or do things that seem unreasonable from time to time – it’s the disease talking, not them.

Don’t make every conversation with friends about dementia – have coffee with friends who aren’t affected by dementia and talk about other things. Otherwise, the entire focus of your life is on dementia. At the same time, talk to others when you are feeling down, as it’s important that you feel supported.

Do something for you – seriously, get a hobby. It doesn’t need to take up much of your time, but find something that makes you laugh, switches your mind off and makes you feel good. Exercise always helps!

Plan for the future – at some point, the person with dementia won’t be safe alone. Start thinking about and planning for the future. Explore various options such as home care, a care home or the person living with you or under closer supervision. Talk to the person with dementia about what they would like to happen. Weigh up all your options now, rather than reacting to a difficult situation later on.

old man with walking stick