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It’s all too easy to forget about yourself when caring for someone with dementia, so Bupa Admiral Nurse Helen Green reveals her three top tips for carers:

Reach out

Being a carer can be lonely and it’s easy for both of you to start feeling isolated. ‘Support groups, where you can share experiences, tips and ideas with people in a similar situation, can be invaluable,’ says Helen.

Wherever possible, it’s also important to continue with hobbies and interests of your own, and to make time to maintain friendships and relationships. You may worry about the person you’re supporting saying or doing the wrong thing in a social setting – but the benefits of having support from others and an active social life far outweigh these potential concerns.

TIP: Look for memory cafés near you. Many Bupa homes run them – they’re a great way to meet other carers and you can be reassured that your loved one is being cared for at the same time.

Offer prompts to help friends and family start a conversation

If your loved one’s dementia has progressed to a stage where they don’t recognise others, you might have found that friends and family feel uncomfortable knowing how to start a conversation with your loved one. ‘You’ll know your loved one best, so you’ll know how to get the best out of them,’ Helen says.

Remind friends and family on the basics:

• Dementia can affect the person’s concentration and ability to understand and find the right words, so use simple, short sentences that are frequently repeated

• Speak clearly and slowly

• Allow the person time to formulate their response and find the words they need. People living with dementia can find it frustrating to have the word on the tip of their tongue, and have another person try to guess that word for them

• Keep background noise and other distractions to a minimum.

TIP: Prompts such as old photographs or familiar music might help to build friends and family’s confidence in starting a conversation

Take a break

You need time to yourself, even if it’s just to pop to the shops for an hour, so it’s important that you have people around you who are able to help you out. ‘Don’t feel guilty for wanting to take some time out,’ says Helen. ‘We find that people worry about leaving the person they support alone; fearing they’ll leave the house because they’ve forgotten you have nipped out’.

You might have found that verbal prompts and reminders are no longer effective because they’re easily forgotten.

Written communication can be far more beneficial and reassuring, for example a note on the door, a list of contact phone numbers, and details of when you will return if you are popping out.

For a longer-term break – depending on the stage of your loved one’s dementia – you may be able to consider around-the-clock care at home or respite care in a specialist care home.

TIP: Many Bupa homes can offer short stays for some people living with dementia. Stays can be booked in advance, helping you to plan ahead.