Are you looking after someone living with dementia? According to Dementia UK, over 900,000 people in the UK have some kind of dementia, with this number set to rise to over one million by 2025.
There are 200 different types of dementia, all of which are progressive conditions that affect the brain. If you have dementia your brain cells stop working properly, affecting your ability to remember, think and speak. This can cause symptoms like memory loss, confusion, and problems with speech and understanding that get worse over time.
There are lots of positive things about caring for someone with dementia: you're supporting a person who is important to you and may have looked after you in the past. Lots of carers feel a sense of pride in helping and find new strengths. But there's no denying it can also be extremely challenging and upsetting. Research by Carers Trust showed that caregivers of people with dementia are at a greater risk of anxiety, depression, and a poorer quality of life. As it stands, around 40% of family carers of people with dementia have clinically significant depression.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, it can be helpful to break down each of the problems that you, or the person you're caring for, might be struggling with. Then come up with solutions. Here are some tips that could make day-to-day life easier:
1. Make mealtimes less tricky (with a little help from Dementia UK):
Making sure that a person with dementia is eating properly is one of the biggest challenges carers can face. If the person you're caring for is living independently, they might forget to eat or drink. Or stop recognising when they are hungry, thirsty, or full.
Dementia UK has loads of recommendations for carers on how to make mealtimes less stressful here. Top tips include offering a small snack before mealtimes because this can help people with dementia realise they are hungry. Small meals or finger foods can help if they find a main meal overwhelming.
Turning off the TV and removing distractions is beneficial if they have difficulty concentrating on eating. You could also try using plain coloured plates, so they can see food easily, and opt for lots of different bright fruit and veg. This looks appetising and will also give them a wide range of nutrients.
While you might be trying to follow a low-fat, low-sugar diet, older people and those with dementia need more nutrients, protein, and calories. So it's also worth bearing this in mind when planning meals for the person you're caring for.
2. Try giving a supplement to fill in nutritional gaps and boost health:
It can be challenging to know how much a person with dementia has eaten. And there can be days when they won’t feel like eating much at all. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies in key vitamins like B12 and vitamin D, which can have a big negative impact on health.
A supplement can come in handy for filling any nutritional gaps. A multivitamin is a good start, because as you get older it’s common to develop deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals that your body can’t make or absorb as efficiently anymore. The Multivitamin Plus patch contains all the essential vitamins you need to support general health and stay well.
Patches are an ideal way for people with dementia to get their vitamins because many of them have trouble swallowing and struggle to remember to take tablets regularly. You could put a patch on the person you’re caring for while dressing them each day. Patches are incredibly comfortable to wear, so it’s likely they won’t even notice they’re wearing one!
Dementia UK recommends a vitamin D supplement all year round for anyone with dementia. Vitamin D is included in our multivitamin patch. Or, we also have a dedicated D3/Calcium Plus patch here. An excellent choice for older people as it also protects bone health.
If you're looking for other helpful supplements, we’d also suggest our NAD Total Recovery patch. Research shows that mitochondria dysfunction is a probable cause of dementia. Mitochondria are responsible for providing energy to cells. If they malfunction, cells in the brain (and throughout the body) start to die and stop working properly. Studies have shown that topping up your NAD levels can help to protect your mitochondria. Taking NAD won't reverse dementia, but it could help to slow down decline.
3. Try some Dementia UK approved light exercise each day
Exercise helps to keep the brain healthy by encouraging blood flow, increasing protective chemicals, and boosting brain connections. Like NAD, it's obviously not going to reverse dementia, but can contribute to protecting existing brain function. It also has physical benefits like more flexible joints and improved strength and balance, which reduces the risk of falls and makes it easier to perform daily tasks.
Many carers find it hard to get the person they are caring for to get active. If this sounds familiar, it’s worth thinking outside the box about what constitutes 'exercise'. Is there something the person you're looking after enjoys or enjoyed? Dementia UK recommends gardening. Something that lots of people like and suitable for all stages of dementia.
It gets the person outside and you can vary activity levels. or example: low-impact activities like weeding or pruning, or more strenuous things like raking or mowing grass. Both ends of the spectrum can help strengthen muscles and improve breathing.
You could even go all Strictly Come Dancing and take the person you are caring for to an organised dance class. Or, just have a boogie at home with the family, which can bring back memories and encourage reconnection. If mobility is an issue, try exercises in a chair or bed. Gentle exercises to music are ideal and it’s a good idea to do these workouts with the person you’re looking after.
4. Don't forget to look after you:
Taking care of someone with dementia can be physically and mentally exhausting. But it's crucial to make sure you're looking after your own needs as well. It's all too easy to overlook how you are feeling when you are caring for someone else, but it really is a must.
It might seem difficult to find any time to yourself, but even setting aside half an hour each day for yourself could help. Yoga and mindfulness can help you clear your mind and reduce your stress and anxiety. Or if that's not your thing, getting outside for a brisk walk, or run can work wonders for helping you switch off stress.
Stay in touch with your friends and family and chatting with them about how you're feeling is also essential – ideally face to face. It's so important to have time to 'offload' sometimes and totally natural and normal to want to do this! Try and make some time for your hobbies if you can. This might seem impossible, but even something as simple as putting on your fave tunes while you're cleaning or driving to appointments can help.
Take regular breaks, talk to other people and if you need some extra support don't be afraid to ask. Dementia UK has a helpful list of places you can find help here.
Finally – many types of dementia run in families, so if you're caring for someone who has it, it's a wise idea to add Omega 3 to your supplement shopping list. Studies have shown that regularly taking Omega-3 can help to prevent dementia, so it's a great way to take a positive step towards futureproofing your health. It's also quick and easy when you're busy with caring responsibilities. Especially if you use the Omega Plus patch, which you'll find here.