If someone you care about has Alzheimer’s or dementia, your main priority is probably to make sure they continue to enjoy life as much as possible. But it isn’t always easy to know if you’re doing the right thing or if you are, unwittingly, making life more difficult for them. So we were intrigued to hear that researchers have been investigating how to boost quality of life for people with dementia.
The research team, led by Professor Linda Clare at the University of Exeter, reviewed a staggering 198 studies (involving more than 37,000 people) and found there are four factors which can determine whether a person with dementia is leading their best possible life.
1- Having a good relationship with family and friends
Encourage friends and family to keep visiting. Some may try to stay away because they don’t know how to handle dementia/don’t know what to say etc. If this happens, try suggesting they get involved in more practical tasks such as driving you to a hospital appointment or helping you with shopping. This way, your loved one still gets to see people who are important to him, but they don’t have to feel awkward because they have something ‘to do.’
2- Feeling included and being involved in social activities
Sometimes, people with dementia start to withdraw, particularly if they’re feeling frustrated or confused. This can lead to a slump in mood, morale and self-esteem. So it’s really important to find things you can still do together. Whether it’s cooking a meal together, doing a jigsaw or joining a dementia-friendly choir, finding ways to include them and new ways to connect provides stimulation and a much-needed boost to their confidence. Check out our range of enjoyable activities here.
3- Being able to manage every day activities
Independence is precious. If someone with dementia finds themselves unable to do tasks they used to take for granted, they’re bound to feel upset and depressed. Fortunately, there are now many ways to avoid this happening for quite some time. For example, a day clocks and a simple phone can make it easier to keep appointments, avoid confusion and stay in touch with friends and family.
4- Maintaining religious beliefs
Religious or spiritual beliefs can bring lots of comfort and support to people with dementia; the sights, sounds and smells of their place of worship can also be calming and reassuring. Religious beliefs also people retain a sense of their own identity and being able to worship alongside others is also a social activity, which may trigger happy memories.
PS: Money doesn’t matter
Interestingly, the study also found that income, age, gender, marital status or education were not key factors in evaluating a person with dementia’s quality of life. Nor was the type of dementia they had. ‘We now need to develop ways to put these findings into action to make a difference to people’s lives,’ adds Linda Clare.