Early onset dementia

Does your loved one have early onset dementia?

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be emotionally, physically and logistically challenging. You may have begun to notice some behavioural changes and it is probably getting increasingly difficult to figure out if your loved one is in pain or has other medical conditions that require attention. It is so important to pay attention to these changes, no matter how subtle they may be, as they can provide clues to how your loved one is coping with dementia and other related health issues (such as depression, anger, aggression, hallucinations, insomnia, lack of appetite etc.) that may develop over time as a natural progression of the disease.

As your loved one is slowly losing his/her ability to remember and communicate clearly with you, it is common for carers to become anxious and concerned about keeping them safe while in the familiar surrounds of the family home. Thankfully many strategies and options exist to help you balance your caring responsibilities with the demands of your work and family commitments. You are not alone, and there are services you can access to maximize the quality of life, sense of connection and safety your loved one needs at this confusing time.

What support is available?

In addition to getting in-home support from our capable and caring team of nurses and personal carers, here are some valuable tips to help you manage your loved one’s needs and care as they continue to deal with the progression of dementia.

1.     Communication

You may have begun to notice subtle variations in the way that your loved one communicates with you. Often dementia suffers find it difficult to remember the right word, express their emotions, write, read or hold a simple conversation. They can react abruptly, lose their train of thought, interrupt you or completely ignore what you are saying. It is often as if they have become a different person or have forgotten the acceptable social conventions of polite conversation.

If you are struggling to communicate with your loved one, you might consider:

  • using short, simple sentences and providing them with lots of time and explanation to take in the context of what you are saying
  • ensuring that you start each conversation with a brief introduction of who they are speaking to and their relationship to your loved one
  • remembering to stay calm and not taking anything personally
  • avoiding conversation in surroundings which are noisy and could make it difficult for them to understand you clearly
  • being mindful of your loved ones feelings, emotions and need to be recognized and heard, even though they may not respond positively or even comprehend what you have said
  • giving them plenty of time to hear and understand what you are trying to tell them
  • refraining from arguments, asking questions that could confuse, talking negatively about them in the presence of others or making demands that could add undue stress or pressure
  • adopting body language that is open and inviting and touching them in a loving and supportive way
2.     Nutrition

Unfortunately people with dementia often forget to eat and drink. Sometimes, especially as the disease progresses, they may also find it difficult to chew and swallow. Here are a few strategies that can help you ensure your loved one is getting the nutrition he/she needs to remain physically healthy:

  • offer nutritious snacks and water regularly
  • serve foods that are familiar and liked by them
  • keep table settings, condiments and presentation simple
  • consider finger foods which are easy to eat
  • try a simple timer, alarm or call to remind them about mealtimes
  • eat with your loved one so they can copy you
  • Supplement their normal diet with fortified drinks that are designed to encourage weight gain or maintenance
  • If all else fails, ask a doctor to investigate and rule out other potential causes of appetite loss – such as mouth ulcers, stomach pain/gas, reflux, depression or denture pain
3.     Hygiene

Dementia sufferers often lose interest in maintaining their personal hygiene. Here are a few suggestions you can use to encourage them to keep up good hygiene:

  • be patient and encouraging re: showering or bathing
  • ensure the bathing facilities are well lit and safe
  • lay out the items needed in sequence to make it easier for them to do it themselves
  • address their fears – of water, of falling etc. – and consider introducing options such as a hand-held shower, stool for sitting etc to allay their fears
  • consider safe options for shaving, dental care, personal grooming etc. and look for ways to make it easier for them to identify and select fresh clothes that are weather appropriate
  • consider regular dental appointments as people with dementia often suffer from problems such as reduced production of saliva, changed eating habits and reduced ability to look after their oral and dental health

Click here to receive more information and tips for working with and helping your loved one as dementia progresses and symptoms become more severe.

Contact us now to receive a free assessment and detailed plan for how we can work together to help you take care of your loved one and keep them in the safe and familiar surrounds of the family home for as long as possible.

What community support is available?

If your loved one has dementia and you need assistance to ensure they remain safe and healthy in their home, there are many community based services that offer education and support.

Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service

The Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) offers support to manage the behavioural, psychological and physical symptoms of dementia. Visit the DBMAS website to find out more or call us to discuss your questions and concerns.

National Dementia Helpline

The National Dementia Helpline has a toll free number -1800 100 500. They conduct conferences and seminars on the subject of dementia and can put you in touch with support groups.

Alzheimer’s Australia

The Alzheimer’s Australia website can provide you with help-sheets and safety checklists.

Carer support groups

Carer support groups can put you in touch with other carers who understand first hand what you are going through. This affords you the opportunity to share stories, advice and suggestions to support each other as care givers.

Legal help

As dementia is an irreversible, degenerative condition, it’s important for your loved one to get their affairs in order and plan for the future as early as possible. We can recommend a reputable law firm who can provide professional assistance.

When you are ready to find some help to support you and your loved one and discuss a holistic and supportive dementia care plan, call us on 9499 1200 or submit a written request here by following this link to our contact page. We are happy to offer you a free checklist so that you can assess whether it might be time to map out a course of action to keep you loved one safe, and take the stress and worry off your shoulders.

Call Sequel today on 9499 1200 to find out how we can be of assistance.

Emily’s story

Emily is busy with her young family and also balancing the needs of both her ailing parents – her mother Mary has dementia and her father is in an aged care facility. She feels torn between both parents and is doing her best to care for her mother at home even though she fractured her hip recently and has moderate cognitive impairment.

Mary needs help everyday with the typical things you and I take for granted – showering, meal preparation, wound healing, medication management and trips to see the doctor. When Emily first came to us, she was doing her best to balance all of this and also spend as much time as she could with her own children. Emily was in desperate need of a little respite care – a break for her each week so she could rest up, re-focus and come back home with renewed energy and a bit of perspective. She also felt a bit guilty that her father was in a facility and she was adamant that her mother would not want to be “put in a home”.

Emily had no idea how many options existed to make the responsibility of looking after her mother in the home, and also visiting her father in the aged care facility, easier to manage. With a simple plan of about 8 hours a week we were able to support her with a daily nursing visit to administer medications and check the wound on her hip plus some personal carer support on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to give Emily some respite and also assist with meal preparation, shopping, showering her mother etc. And when it feels like “it’s all a bit too much, Emily now knows that she can call us for more support or one of the counsellors at the dementia hotline service that we provided her with the number to.

Contact us now to receive a free assessment and detailed plan for how we can work together to help you take care of your loved one and keep them in the safe and familiar surrounds of the family home for as long as possible.