Founder James Ashwell talks about his excitment to see so many new products for people with dementia, many of which didn’t exist when he was caring for his Mum. He picks out a few recently developed that would have been really helpful when he was a carer
‘Mum hated us brushing her teeth and this special mouth prop could have made the whole teeth brushing experience far less traumatic for her, plus we wouldn’t have had to worry so much about her oral hygiene.’ Pashmina bib
(Now out of stock).
‘Mum used to have a wear a normal bib whilst eating which she didn’t like – she kept pulling it off and it wasn’t nice for us to see. It didn’t feel very dignified. This pashmina bib looks much more in keeping with what she would have liked to have worn, but still fulfils the requirements of a bib in a dignified way.’
‘One of the worst things when caring for my mum was when she got a urinary tract infection (UTI). It made her extremely delusional which was very unpleasant for her and very worrying for me and my siblings. She would develop a UTI a couple of times despite our best efforts to avoid them, and it was hard because we didn’t know if it was the dementia that had got worse or if it was the infection. Also collecting urine to find out if it was an infection is not a pleasant job to do, especially for a loved one and and is particularly difficult to do on someone with dementia who isn’t very co-operative, despite us trying to explain what was happening.
‘The Tena U-Test is pad that you stick onto incontinence pads and is able to detect whether the wearer has developed a UTI, providing results in just 15 minutes. A product like this would have made our lives much easier by avoiding the undignified job of collecting urine and allow us to know, without having to visit the GP, that the issue was a UTI, meaning we could get it treated more quickly and get her back to normal faster.’
‘We found that you need lots and lots of low cost crafts to keep a loved one with dementia feeling purposeful and stimulated. Adult colouring books – easily available now – would have been so useful and far more dignified for Mum than the childish ones we had to use. I’m really impressed by the amount of art and craft activities generally available now, from painting sheets to easy-grip brushes. You also need somewhere to keep all the ‘stuff’ you accumulate so that your home doesn’t quickly descend into chaos, so storage boxes are a must.’
As her dementia progressed stimulating Mum’s senses became increasingly important. Multi-sensory dough is a brilliant idea and I’m sure Mum would have enjoyed using it. The dough comes in six different colours and fragrances – and smell is such a powerful way to evoke memories. Sensory bags contain smelly sticks, shells, feathers and lots of other textures, smells, shapes and sounds are another fantastic way of stimulating the senses of someone in the later stages. People often asked what they could buy Mum for a gift and we always struggled to think of anything, but items like these would have been most appreciated.’
‘It was terrifying when Mum left the house on her own, and if these simple shoe insoles, with built in GPS tracking, had been around I would have definitely bought them. There are some important ethical and moral issues around tracking devices that need to be carefully considered and so the choice to use them is very much a personal one.’
‘Maintaining dignity and independence is so important on the dementia journey. I’m sure Mum would have been a lot happier if she could have continued dressing herself in her favourite clothes, rather than have her children help her dress. One of the biggest issues was the way Mum would try to undress herself by simply pulling open her blouse without undoing it, popping all of the buttons off. Specially adapted clothes and underwear, with discreet modifications, such as Velcro fastening or magnetic buttons, can make a real difference and would have saved me sewing her buttons on all the time.’
‘Mum enjoyed doing jigsaws, but as her dementia progressed she struggled to complete ones that had any more than about 15 pieces and she would get frustrated and feel demoralised if she tried to do jigsaws with a large number of pieces. We often had to resort to Disney and children’s puzzles as they were the only ones available with less pieces. I really wish someone had invented something suitable but with a more adult design, but they just didn’t exist at the time, and we often resorted to making our own puzzles by hand. Now there’s a whole range of adult jigsaws and we’ve found some of the best ones designed specifically for people with dementia.’
You may also like to watch James’ story in his video
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