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22 September 2016

In Australia today, there are more than 353,800 people living with dementia. This statistic is one that creates a lot of stress for sufferers of dementia and their families, as well as creating a burden on the healthcare system. However, it is becoming increasingly possible for people experiencing dementia to remain living independently at home.

Dementia is a disorder which affects the mental processes of a person. It is a chronic or persistent issue which can be caused by brain injury or disease, or the aging process. One of the most common traits of dementia is the loss of memory, as well as personality changes and impaired reasoning abilities. All of these create a stressful environment and a lot of confusion in people living with dementia. The ability to stay at home and have those familiar homely comforts is a major positive for families of dementia sufferers.

Living at home with dementia

In the early stages of dementia, it is entirely possible to live at home and live independently. In fact, studies have shown that being able to stay at home and follow a similar routine of socialisation and habits like before the diagnosis can prevent dementia from worsening rapidly.

However, as the disorder progresses, it will eventually become necessary to look into in-home services. It is important that a dementia sufferer has support from doctors, allied health services, and family and friends during this period. It may become necessary to make changes to the home as well in terms of mobility and access as the dementia progresses.

Caring for a family member with dementia

If you are in the position of having a family member living with dementia, who is still living at home, there are some things you can do to provide support. Obviously, regular contact and communication with the person is highly important. This way you can keep track of the dementia and if it is worsening. Staying informed with their health check ups as well will provide you with a better perspective on what is happening.

Awareness is absolutely key when supporting someone living with dementia. Some things that someone experiencing dementia and living alone at home may forget to do include:

  • Forget to eat solid meals
  • Forget to take prescribed medication
  • Have a lessened awareness of hazards
  • Forget to care for and feed pets
  • Become paranoid and have unrealistic suspicions

As a carer or supporter of someone with dementia, you ca help by checking the house regularly and making sure there are no tripping hazards or electrical faults. Looking into independence aids will make a big difference too. These can be things such as hand rails at the shower and toilet, large clocks and easy to read calendars for time perception, and monitoring systems depending on the severity.

The number one factor in helping someone with dementia, however, is understanding and empathy. Letting someone know that you care about them and support them is the biggest support when experiencing dementia.

Top tips for living at home dementia

For the person experiencing dementia and still living at home, these top tips can help make life easier and more independent.

  • Maintain a regular routine each week
  • Understand the times you concentrate best and be most productive then
  • Communicate with family, friends, neighbours, and health care professionals
  • Keep a regular eating pattern and ensure you drink enough fluids
  • Stay active and incorporate a light walk into your weekly schedule
  • Keep essential items in one easy to reach place and always return things to this space, including items such as glasses, keys, bank cards and money
  • Have a list of important people to contact in a visible and easy to reach place
  • Label cupboards and draws so that you always remember where things are

It is really important to remember that dementia doesn’t have to be an isolating experience. Reaching out to the support networks available will make a huge difference. The more you communicate and continue to live your life as regularly as possible, the lesser the degree of the dementia will be.

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