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Monday, 19 December 2016

Tips for people with dementia with a sensory impairment

Tips for people with dementia with a sensory impairment

Sight loss
·         Make the most of the person's sight - make things such as a calendar or clock bigger, bolder (use contrasting backgrounds) and brighter (use good lighting).

·         If the person with dementia needs glasses, make sure they are the correct ones and that they are clean. It may help to label them.

·         Reduce physical and visual clutter and obstacles.

·         Good communication is important - describe what is happening, for example that you have just come into the room, or what they are eating.

·         Use other senses such as scent, sound, touch and movement. This could include massage, cookery and music.

Think about using versions of daily living aids that have been adapted to make them more accessible such as:

·         audio versions of some newspapers, magazines and books

·         tactile and large-print games

·         audio guides (you can create your own) if going out and about

·         kitchen utensils and equipment.

Hearing loss
·         If the person with dementia needs a hearing aid, check that it works and encourage them to use it.

·         Communication is important. Make sure that the person can see your face clearly, get the person's attention before you start to speak and speak slightly more slowly than usual but try to keep the natural rhythms of your speech.

·         Non-verbal communication is important. Use eye contact and use objects or pictures rather than just describing items.

·         In the physical environment, try to reduce any background noise and ensure that the area is well lit.

The following suggestions may help:

·         Think about where people are sitting.

·         Keep noise levels down.

·         Provide visual information - think about using both words and pictures.

·         As with sight loss use the other senses that the person still has.
Help the person to relax

There are plenty of things you can do to help the person feel calm and secure.

·         Ensure that the person is as close as possible to the people and things that give them pleasure.

·         A relaxing atmosphere could help the person feel calm and secure. This could be through music, people or familiar belongings.

·         Try to ensure familiar surroundings and a regular routine, as this may be reassuring.

·         Physical stimulation such as a cuddle or hand-holding can help the person with dementia feel valued and reassured.

·         Try to avoid too many conflicting sounds or large numbers of people, as this can add to a person's confusion. If the person needs to concentrate on something in particular, take them to a quiet place.

·         If the person becomes upset or embarrassed by their declining abilities, give them plenty of reassurance. If things do go wrong, be tactful and encouraging. Keeping a sense of humour and having a laugh together can often help.

Memory aids

Memory aids and other reminders can help the person to remain active and use their skills. These may be of most help in the early to moderate stages of dementia when the person is better able to understand the aid and to act upon it.

Ideas include:
·         labelling cupboards and drawers, using pictures and words - for example, a photo of a cup and jar of coffee

·         a large calendar showing the day, month and year

·         a noticeboard for messages

·         notes stuck by the front door

·         a book containing named pictures of significant people such as home carers, or listing important contacts such as the day centre.

There are assistive technology aids designed to help people with memory problems.

Consider seeking professional advice

Help may be available if the person with dementia finds it particularly hard to cope with certain activities, either because of the dementia or because of other conditions or disabilities. An occupational therapist (OT) can assess the difficulties and can make recommendations that will aid the person's independence, safety and confidence when doing certain activities. This may be by adapting the task, by doing things using a different approach or by using assistive technology.

You can contact an occupational therapist through:

·         social services (look in the phone book under your local council)

·         your GP

·         your local memory service (ask your local hospital for details)

·         the College of Occupational Therapists (see 'Other useful organisations' below), if you would like details of a private practitioner.

If the occupational therapist recommends any changes, try to make them as soon as possible, to give the person the best chance of taking in the new information. The earlier you contact an occupational therapist, the more effective their solutions will be.
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