Dementia Behaviours

A caregiver’s guide to dementia behaviours

Watching a loved one start showing dementia symptoms, including changes for the worse in their behaviour, can be heartbreaking. Dementia is a progressive biological brain disorder which leads to sufferers increasingly struggling to think clearly, recall things, look after themselves and communicate with others – and all of this can have adverse implications for how sufferers behave.

However, by learning how the condition can change people’s behaviour, you can learn how to handle and care for someone who is suffering dementia, as this guide further elaborates.

The link between dementia and behavioural changes

Dementia comes about due to brain damage brought by injury or disease. Therefore, conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease can be particularly responsible for the onset of dementia – and most of the condition’s causes are irreversible. When losing brain cells, someone could struggle to gain or access memories – and so start showing some peculiar behaviours.

You are unlikely to succeed in attempts to control or change these behaviours. This is due to the permanent nature of their condition. Trying to influence that behaviour could even lead to resistance from the person living with dementia. Therefore, you should endeavour to accommodate, rather than control, that behaviour – or change your own behaviour or the surroundings.

What types of behaviour should you look out for

Sometimes, dementia-caused behaviour can be strange but still openly revealed, allowing you to cater for it readily. For example, someone might insist that they sleep on the floor – in which case, you can put down a mattress for their comfort. However, there could be a greater mystery behind other behaviours – like adopting a daily habit of removing all of the clothes from a cupboard.

Dementia suffers are often unable to let us know what they want or require. However, many odd behaviours can arise simply because that person needs to stay busy and productive. Some behavioural problems might also arise due to underlying medical reasons; for example, pain or a side effect caused by medications. Behaviour can also be prompted by external “triggers”…
Those could include a particular action by another person or an alteration in the physical surroundings. However, you may have inadvertently allowed the settling of particular patterns which are leading to the strange behaviour. Therefore, don’t be afraid to sometimes change your approach – particularly considering that, as the disease is progressive, what works one day could become less effective, or even completely ineffective, surprisingly quickly.

You don’t have to handle the behaviour alone

This is because you can utilise external sources of support. Here at Kentish Homecare, we have expertise in caring for dementia sufferers; therefore, our own team of carers can free up time for you to spend on other matters, like looking after yourself. By contacting us by phone on 0208 658 4455, you can further learn how we can effectively care for people with dementia.

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What is the purpose of respite care

Many people, as they age, lose their ability to care for themselves or their home in ways to which they have become accustomed. However, at the same time, they might not be enthusiastic about moving into a care home; they might prefer to stay where they already live.
For that to be possible, they might need a caregiver – and a relative, friend or neighbour may volunteer to fulfil that responsibility without receiving payment to do so. However, looking after that older adult could be testing on the caregiver – and this is where respite care can help.

A change is as good as a rest

With respite care, the usual caregiver spends a predetermined period of time away from their usual care tasks while a respite caregiver takes over. This time freed up for the other caregiver can be hugely valuable, as they might have various other responsibilities that need attention.
That person might, for example, have children to think about or jobs on which they are financially highly reliant. They might also, of course, have their own house that needs to be lovingly maintained. All things considered, that caregiver might just feel the need to recharge their batteries.

During a period of respite care, the standard caregiver can spend time focusing on all of these things and more. There are also benefits for the older adult, as they will have someone new to chat to and can still receive the care that they require.
That person could even spend their time of respite care on a holiday or visiting a relative’s home. However, they can continue to benefit from specialist care that meets their specific needs – rather than a possibly unhelpful “one-size-fits-all” approach.

What can be specifically expected with a respite care service

As we know that home care service requirements can significantly vary between people who need homecare, we can tailor our services to suit. Respite visits can also vary in length – from a few hours to numerous weeks. So, what types of services can be included with a Kentish Homecare package?

Those services can include forms of personal care – like bathing and dressing the old person and assisting them in getting in and out of bed. Also included can be practical assistance in the home – including tasks like washing, cleaning, cooking and returning items to where they should be.
There is even more that a respite care and sitting service can provide. For details, you can look at the respite care page of our website or call Kentish Homecare on 0208 658 4455. We will be content to answer any questions you may have concerning our respite care offerings.

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Tips for looking after an elderly relative overnight

While the night can simply be a time of peaceful slumber for many of us, it can be much more uncomfortable for many older adults. They might often struggle to relax sufficiently to fall asleep – and convoluted sleep patterns can play havoc with such degenerative conditions as dementia.
If you have an elderly relative who is often restless at night, you may be able to personally attest to disruption this has brought to people who live with them. Here are ways that you can help prevent that relative overly suffering as a result of their night struggles.

Closely monitor their sleep patterns

Ideally, your relative should enjoy a lengthy period of largely or entirely uninterrupted sleep every night. However, even on a comfortable night for them, their sleep patterns could noticeably differ to yours, as these patterns can alter with age.
Nonetheless, check whether your loved one wakes up any more often than twice a night. This would be outside the range of normality and suggest that they may require a professional night carer.

Give them enough light and space for trips to the bathroom
Your relative might occasionally want to head out of the bedroom for a toilet trip or some water. That’s fine, but make sure that they will be able to clearly see where they are going when they do.
Look at the paths between both the bed and bathroom and bed and kitchen. Clear them of clutter and any loose rugs over which your loved one could otherwise trip. Also, set up strategically-placed motion sensor lights on both paths.

Counter adverse implications of incontinence issues

Older people can often suffer incontinence, which refers to insufficient control over the bladder. While you would be unable to control the condition itself, you can still prevent damage to the bed if you waterproof the mattress and give your relative adult incontinence underwear.

Seek professional care if this seems warranted

If you are unable to meet all of your relative’s night care requirements yourself, you could seek help from a professional night caregiver. We understand that taking care of a relative overnight can be testing; furthermore, we can take account of their unique needs.

We can do this when putting together a night care service for your relative. A Kentish Homecare caregiver can, if necessary, remain awake through the night; and, even with our “sitting service”, they can remain “on call” while napping. We invite you to phone Kentish Homecare Services on 0208 658 4455 for more details.

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The different types of homecare available

You might have reached a point where, due to physical handicaps brought about due to age or illness, you are no longer able to get around your home as easily or take care of all of your usual household responsibilities. In this situation, Kentish Homecare can help. There are various kinds of homecare available – and which of them you should use will depend on the type of assistance you need.

Personal care

It is desirable to preserve personal independence, but this could escape you should you be unable to fulfil personal care tasks like washing or dressing yourself. Whether you prefer to shower or bathe and regardless of the kind of clothing you routinely wear, we offer staff who can help you handle a range of personal care responsibilities – from combing your hair right through to using the toilet.

Housekeeping services

As well as making sure you are personally looked after, you also need to extend such care to the house in which you live. However, if it is no longer possible for you to keep on top of housekeeping  duties like washing dishes, making beds and sweeping floors, we can provide you with a personal caregiver who can take care of all of these duties and more.

Night care

If your usual struggles with self-care usually continue – or strengthen – during the night, then you might benefit from a night caregiver. They can take over when the day caregiver – perhaps a relative, friend or partner of you, the person being looked after – goes “off duty”.
There are two types of night care service: waking service and sitting service. With waking service, the caregiver can stay awake right through the night should they be requested – or need – to do so. Sitting service, meanwhile, is for less demanding cases; the caregiver can nap but stay “on call”.

24-hour care

There are instances where you might require care right around the clock. Such instances could include the aftermath of illness, an accident, surgery or a lengthy stay in hospital. Alternatively, a friend, family member or partner might be about to embark on a long period of absence.
With 24-hour care, you can rest assured that professional assistance is always available. That assistance can come from one of our caregivers here at Kentish Homecare. More details about our 24-hour care service – and, indeed, our services in personal care, housekeeping and night care – are available when you call Kentish Homecare on 0208 658 4455.

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The benefits of the elderly owning pets

In the case of many people who reach an elderly age, their lives can feel barren and lonely. However, they can enjoy reassuring company from a cute and friendly pet. Many of us love our furry or feathery creatures, but there are especially good reasons why the elderly can enjoy owning and caring for pets.

A new friend with an optimistic sense of the now

Old age often means living alone, and this can be depressing. With fewer opportunities to socially interact and physically exercise than they might have previously been accustomed to, an elderly person could become stressed and preoccupied with negative thoughts.
Those thoughts could include what might happen in the future, a potentially very scary subject for an old person. However, pets very much live in the present moment without fretting about tomorrow. This attitude to life can rub off on an elderly owner and so perk their spirits.

A happy pet and a happy owner

When a new pet enters an elderly person’s life, it can be a delightful moment for both that person and their pet. Whether it be a dog, cat, bird or other animal, it could be a pet that was previously unwanted but now has a warm, comfortable home with a loving owner.
The bond formed between the owner and pet could also lead the former to research the type of animal or breed that their new friend is. This can benefit the owner through mentally stimulating them – and, of course, help them more effectively take care of their pet.
The mental stimulation could be such that the owner can, even if they suffer from memory loss, recall memories from a distant past. Caring for pets can also help distract elderly people from physical problems they might be suffering or loss that inevitably comes with ageing.

What if the owner becomes too ill to take care of their pet

Given all of these benefits, it can unsurprisingly be a trying time when the owner suffers an illness that prevents them properly looking after their pet. Though one apparent solution might be to remove this pet from the home while their owner is recovering, this can actually be problematic…
If the owner and pet share a strong bond, then taking away the pet – someone who unconditionally loves them and has long been there for them – could add to anguish that the owner is already experiencing as a result of their illness.

Fortunately, here at Kentish Homecare, we can provide a caregiver capable of looking after both the elderly individual and pet homecare. As a result, the owner and pet can stay together in their current, reassuringly familiar home. Please call Kentish Homecare on 0208 658 4455 to learn more about our pet care services.

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How to encourage independence in the home

You might know someone – like a friend a relative, perhaps even your partner – who has just come out of a hospital stay lasting several days, weeks or months and is now in a period of rehabilitation. You should keep in mind that this particular stage could last longer than you initially anticipated. However, in the meantime, you can still encourage your loved one to find their feet again.

Remote control? Yes, control more remotely

In the attempt to make sure that the loved one is – and will stay – okay, you might seek to control many aspects of their lifestyle. You could be afraid to relinquish this control; after all, couldn’t that person inadvertently stumble into trouble from which you could have kept them away?
However, by loosening your control only subtly, you can encourage them to direct their own life while still preventing them running into too much difficulty. So, rather than issuing orders at them, you could ask them what they are interested in doing.

Show positivity to encourage change.

When Bobby McFerrin sang “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in the 1980s, he could have easily been referring to the attitude that caregivers can benefit from adopting. After all, positivity can rub off – and that’s essential given how slow and challenging the path towards independence can prove.

Therefore, remember to acknowledge and celebrate whatever little victories your loved one makes as they endeavour to become more independent. In reaction to you, they are less likely to deem that journey hopeless. Remember: just feeling, rather than voicing, negativity could risk spreading it.

Give them a choice of friends and lifestyle.

Independence is fundamentally about having choice. For that reason, you shouldn’t be afraid to let your loved one do what they want in terms of hobbies. They should also be allowed to choose what people to invite into the house to meet up with. Through giving your loved one such choice, you can encourage them to grow and develop as an individual.

Draw upon professional rehabilitation services.

If you feel that you lack experience or knowhow concerning rehabilitation, you might take comfort in seeking professional assistance. We can provide such assistance – and tailor our rehabilitation service to satisfy your loved one’s particular requirements.
The service can include – for example – helping them with not only walking, but also personal care duties like washing and dressing and household tasks such as cleaning and cooking.
Call Kentish Homecare on 0208 658 4455 to learn how our rehabilitation offerings can help someone slowly transition to independence.

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Questions to ask your chosen home care agency

Those looking for a home care agency to assist them with their needs, or the needs of a loved one, are advised to ask a number of questions before they choose which is the best agency for their requirements.

The careworkers
An agency will provide services via a trained team of care workers, and this may mean that you won’t always have the same person visiting your home. It’s therefore important to know the exactly how the agency hires those that work for them, so you know that your loved one will be receiving a service that is consistently professional. Don’t be afraid to ask your chosen agency the following:

•    How strict is the interview process for your care workers?
•    Do all of your care workers undergo a criminal records check?
•    What type of training, qualifications and experience do your care workers have?
•    What will happen if my chosen care worker is unable to make it to work?
•    How many different care workers should I/my relative expect to see in the space of a week/month? Is it possible to choose a regular care worker?

The needs of your relative
When you choose to work with a home care agency, the most important thing to know is that your relative’s needs are going to be met. You need to choose an agency that will be happy to openly discuss these needs and have the solutions in place to meet them no matter what.

•    How will you assess my relative’s needs?
•    Are you able to find a care worker that can visit my relative at the times required?
•    What happens if my relative and your chosen care worker are not compatible?
•    What is the procedure if there is a medical emergency? Who will you contact?
•    How will the care worker enter my relative’s home? How will this information be secure?

The agency
Your chosen agency should have strict procedures in place to ensure that safety and comfort of your relative at all times.

•    How do you ensure that the quality of care is always met?
•    How will your staff maintain my relative’s privacy and dignity?
•    What procedures do you have in place to protect my relative from neglect, self-harm, etc.?
•    How will your staff handle my relative’s money?
•    What procedures are in place if there is evidence of neglect, theft?

You might also want to delve into the legal requirements that you/the agency may need to consider such as signing a contract and the terms of payment.

•    Do you have a standard contract for your work with private clients?
•    How can I pay for your services and when will this be required?
•    Are there any extra charges for overnight stays/weekends/bank holidays?
•    What insurance do you have in place to protect my relative?

Home care agencies such as Kentish Home Care work with only the most professional carers and can provide home care assistance for you or your loved one at any time of the day or night.

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Creating dementia-friendly environments in the home

Caring for someone with dementia can be made a lot easier if you know how to create a home environment that can support their lifestyle.

Kitchen and dining room

You should make it clear where everything is in the kitchen. This can sometimes be difficult in modern fitted kitchens where white appliances such as fridges and dishwashers are hidden behind unit doors. To help, you might want to label where these items are. You should also label the hot and cold functions on taps clearly.  Replace closed cupboards with open shelving so that they can see foodstuffs and utensils. This will also give the person who is caring for them an idea of whether or not their patient is eating well.  It’s important that everything that may be required is well within reach and that the appliances are easy to use. Assistive technology could help with this.

For the dining area, something as simple as setting the table has been proven to improve the appetite of a person with dementia. Use contrasting colours on tablecloths and cutlery so that these things can be easily seen and identified.

Bedroom

Sometimes a person with dementia will struggle to find their way around the home, particularly when faced with many doors. Make sure that the door is painted a different colour from the surrounding wall or perhaps personalise it with a sign.

Once in the room, make sure the bed is accessible from both sides and that the linen is in a colour that contrasts from the carpet. Ideally, the toilet area should be in plain sight from the bed as to avoid any questions about where the toilet is.  You may want to opt for a hospital-style bed that has raised edges as this will not only prevent people from falling out of bed but provide emotional support for those who have lived with a partner for many years.

Bathroom

The bathroom can present many challenges but changing the design slightly can help. Make sure toilet seats, handrails and towels are easily identifiable as this will prompt the person to use them. Bathrooms should always promote a comfortable experience so avoid a hospital-like appearance when considering the design.

For general safety, make sure that the thermostat is not too high as the person may forget to check that the water is a safe temperature. Install a special bath plug that allows the water to drain away if the bathtub gets too full.

People who have dementia may feel scared or anxious when they see their own reflection in the mirror as they’re no longer able to recognise themselves. For this reason, it might be necessary to remove or cover any mirrors.

For more information on dementia care visit Kentish Homecare

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Preparing to care for someone with dementia

No one is born with the skills of communicating with someone who has dementia so when your loved one has dementia, it’s not unusual to feel as though you’re absolutely useless and unequipped to provide dementia homecare for them. Don’t worry, here are some tips and advice to help you deal with the situation better.

Understand the dementia diagnosis

The first step to providing the right care is to understand the diagnoses that your loved one has been given. Although there is no cure for the disease, you should research the signs and symptoms of dementia and what you might be able to do to slow down the process somewhat. Sites such as Dementia Action Alliance can provide you with a wide range of resources to help you better understand what your loved one is going through.

Have the right mindset

You need to remember that although a person with dementia is impaired, this does not mean that they’re not entitled to the same respect and dignity as they were before. Instead of dismissing them, you must learn how to engage with them in a way that will encourage their independence as much as possible. Although it can be difficult, you should always maintain a positive attitude as the person you’re caring for will be able to sense otherwise.

Learn how to communicate

Dementia can severely impair the way that someone communicates which can lead to frustrations and challenging behaviour. Communication must, therefore, be approached differently. Try some of these simple techniques:

•    Maintain eye contact
•    Speak slowly and calmly
•    Ask simple questions
•    Eliminate any distractions
•    Use touch
•    Encourage them to remember the past
•    Have a sense of humour

Listening patiently to a person with dementia is vital to understanding their needs and requirements. If it becomes challenging, try to reassure them that you’re there for them and that they are in a safe, caring environment.

Handling challenging behaviour can be incredibly tough, but by using patience, flexibility, compassion and creativity, you can try to accommodate the behaviour rather than controlling it. Remember that the person you’re caring for cannot change their illness, so it helps not to take things personally and maintain a calm, positive outlook.

Seek dementia homecare support

There are plenty of dementia homecare services available that can offer professional help and advice when you’re struggling to cope. You could also approach local support groups in your area that are often run by people who are experienced or have experienced, the same type of situation. You should never underestimate the power of family and friends to see you through a difficult time as caring for a loved one with dementia can also begin to affect your physical and mental wellbeing.

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Discussing home care with your elderly relative

It can be tough to talk to an elderly relative about home care because a lot of the time they may still feel just as independent as they were when they were young. If you’ve noticed some signs that your relative might need assistance in their home, here is how to approach the subject with honesty, compassion and sensitivity.

Think about how they feel

Take a moment to think about how your relative may be feeling in their own head. It’s probably very difficult for them to admit that they are unable to cope with their daily routine as well as they once could and that they might need to let go of old routines. They also might be fearful of their health deteriorating or that they may end up in a residential home, so it’s important to let them know that this isn’t the approach you’re considering.

No one wants to lose their dignity or independence so rather than telling your elderly relative what they should and should not be doing, speak to them honestly and openly about your concerns. This should be a two-way conversation so you should remain calm and be prepared to listen to what they have to say, even if you don’t agree. Making an effort to show that you have understood their fears and concerns will be a huge benefit to the overall discussion.

Reassure them

Reassure them that you have no intention of letting their independence slip away and that you think it’s best if they stay at home and receive home care. Explain to them that home care for the elderly in their own home provides plenty of benefits such as letting them stick to their own daily routine in surroundings that they’re comfortable in. Home care is all about making sure that a person still has a say in how they live their life and a good agency will recognise and encourage this.

Make it about someone else

You might want to explain to your loved one that you’d feel much better if you knew that someone was taking the time to care for them the way they deserve to be cared for. This isn’t an opportunity to guilt-trip your relative rather than expressing your fear that they might injure themselves when they’re on their own. If you have elderly parents that still live together, explain that home care will give them a chance to spend more time together and if one is the main carer for the other, highlight how regular home help might ease the burden.

If you are currently the main carer for your elderly relative, there’s no harm in admitting that you’re finding it to be a strain on your mental or physical health because it’s important that you’re healthy too.

Seek professional advice

Contacting a local home care provider will give you a chance to ask as many questions as you need to determine whether this is the best option for your elderly relative. Most home care agencies will be happy to arrange a meeting with you and your relative to have an informal discussion about any concerns that they might have.

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