Tuesday, March 4, 2014

And what do you do?

Today actor Tim West  revealed that his wife, Fawlty Towers star Prunella Scales, has 'a sort of mild Alzheimer's'. 

I know this isn’t a fun topic. But I have a little first-hand experience of what living with someone with dementia is like. 

My father-in-law, a clever, perceptive man, developed dementia towards the end of his life. And although we could laugh about his little ways – humming to himself when he couldn’t follow the conversation round the dinner table or asking the same questions in a tone of polite enquiry over and over again – it can’t have been easy for his wife who cared for him day in, day out.

I was recently sent a book written to help families cope with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. It’s full of useful, easy to understand advice and I could have done with it when my father-in-law was still alive. 

It spells out how to  managing the sort of challenging behaviours that may present themselves  - such as agitation and confusion, hiding things or refusing to wash. The advice is often simple but is drawn from decades of caregiving experience by experts. So although I haven't personally tried and tested these techniques, others have. 

Here are a couple of tips concerning meal times:
*Avoid patterned dishes, placemats and tablecloths. Patterns can be confusing as vision worsens or distracting when you need Mum to eat.

*Look to create contrast on the dinner plate. Mum may not be able to see turkey, potaties and cauliflower on a white plate. Consider a coloured plate.

And a couple about delusions:
*Enter her reality. If Mum believes she is a young mother with toddlers, go along with her reality in a non-commital way by discussing how toddlers can be difficult. Redirect Mum to a favourite activity such as naking a cake.

*If Mum says ‘There’s a man outside,’ say ‘He’s just passing by. Let’s go and have some lunch.’

Confidence to Care by Molly Carpenter (Homestead Press) is available through Amazon rrp £7.99.

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