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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Staying healthy when you have dementia

Staying healthy when you have dementia, when you are caring for someone with dementia it can be time-consuming and it is easy to forget about their general health.

Being able to spot the signs of ill-health in your loved one is really important, but can be difficult as their illness progresses and they become less able to communicate effectively.

Three signs to look for in dementia patients to reassure that they are in good health are
**They are eating, drinking and sleeping reasonably well
**They enjoy (no matter how limited) taking some exercise
**They don’t appear to be in any physical pain

If they are not feeling particularly well you might find that they
**go off their food
**seem more confused that what is considered normal for them – which means they could be dehydrated or suffering from a UTI
**they may come across as being more agitated than normal, which could be a sign that they are in physical pain

If they appear to have little or no enthusiasm for life they could be depressed.

If you spot any of these signs, there’s a chance that the person you’re caring for isn’t feeling very well. Whilst most people with dementia are elderly, and the disease does take a physical toll, (especially on eating and sleeping) there’s still no reason why anyone should have to suffer pain or discomfort that could either be prevented or treated.

To help them maintain good health you could try the following

Encourage a balanced diet
Trying a healthy Mediterranean-style diet with lots of fruit, vegetables will ensure they’re getting all the essential nutrients they need to fight illness and feel good. Plenty of fibre-rich food such as wholemeal carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, can also help prevent uncomfortable issues such as constipation. If their appetite isn’t as good as it used to be, they may prefer to eat smaller snack type meals and finger food, rather than three big meals a day, so don’t be afraid to be creative.

Stay active
Whether it’s just a walk around the garden, or a trip to the local shops, the more mobile the person you’re caring for remains, the better it will be for their physical and mental health. There are lots of ways of staying active even when you’re unsteady on your feet. Check out armchair exercise DVDs or consider installing a grab rail – you might be entitled to walking aids on the NHS.

Pay attention to hygiene
Bathing and washing regularly is one of the best ways to prevent infections spreading. If they don’t enjoy bathing (it can become quite traumatic for some people with dementia) try to work out why. If you can make bath time a ‘treat’ rather than an event to dread, you may find it becomes easier – and that your loved one enjoys it and feels much better afterwards. However, if this doesn’t happen, simply encourage them to wash their hands more often - you can offer them a hand sanitizer if that’s easier.

You can’t force someone to get sleep and rest but you can encourage it
It’s a sad fact that dementia can disrupt sleep patterns but that doesn’t mean they (and you) have to endure constant sleepless nights. Check out how to help them achieve better sleep and ways to encourage more rest and relaxation, too.

Eyes, teeth and hearing
Try not to neglect regular health check-ups. Failing eyesight can lead to accidents and falls, tooth ache and gum disease can put anyone off their food, and hearing loss can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness.

If they are prescribed any medication stay on top of medication
If your loved one needs to take any regular medication or drugs to stay healthy, make sure they stay on top of their dosage by providing reminders to take their pills.
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