Living Well with Dementia

It’s important to remain as fit and healthy as possible. These are some suggestions that help to stay healthy.

Eat well
• Eating sugary foods can cause peaks and troughs in energy levels, making mood swings worse, try and avoid them.
• Make sure meals aren’t missed.
• Consider finger foods if it’s a struggle to eat using cutlery. ‘Soft’ foods are sometimes easier to deal with too.
• Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is a health risk and can increase confusion in someone with dementia. Older people should drink about 1.6 litres or six to seven glasses a day.

Stop smoking
• Smoking is bad for us all, however when a person has memory loss, smoking can also mean an increased fire risk.

Sleeping well
People with dementia can become confused about night and day and may get up in the middle of the night, thinking that it is morning. Things that can help include:
• Limiting daytime naps (which can impact on sleeping through the night) and ensuring a range of stimulating activities to prevent dozing off during the day because due to boredom.
• Avoid caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee, particularly in the evening.
• Taking some form of exercise during the day.
• Finding soothing and relaxing ways to encourage sleep, such as a warm milky drink (which does not contain caffeine) at bedtime.

Support positive mental health
• A certain amount of depression or anxiety is very common in people with dementia – particularly in the early stages. As a carer or family member it’s important to listen, offer affection, reassurance and support. Do not brush feelings aside or attempt to ‘jolly them along’ – their feelings are very real. If you are a person with memory problems or dementia, try and explain how you are feeling to others so they understand better.
• If a person is extremely depressed or anxious, ask a GP for advice – the sooner the better.

Manage alcohol intake
• Having a drink in company can be a pleasant way to relax. However, people with dementia can become more confused after a drink.
• Alcohol doesn’t mix well with certain medicines. If in doubt, ask a GP for advice.

Help with hearing
• Poor hearing can add to feelings of confusion and isolation. Ask a GP for a referral for a hearing test. The test and hearing aids, if needed, are free on the NHS.

The following tips may also help:
• If a hearing aid is being used, make sure it’s switched on and working properly.
• If hearing difficulties can’t be resolved using a hearing aid, try to attract attention before speaking e.g. by touching an arm, facing each other when talking and speaking slowly and clearly.
• Change words rather than repeating the same phrase more loudly.
• Move away from distractions such as the television, radio or loud voices.
• Keep questions simple, with not too many questions at a time.

Looking after your eyesight
• Problems with eyesight can increase confusion in people with dementia and can make it harder to recognise people or objects. Optometrists have special techniques for assessing sight, which are useful for people in the later stages of dementia.
• If glasses have been prescribed, use them to prevent additional eye strain.
• If someone with dementia has sight problems, you may need to tactfully remind them to wear their glasses and check that lenses are clean.