This article was published recently in Berkhamsted living and we thought you would enjoy reading it again here.
Memories can bring a happy tear to your eye but struggling to remember or recall a loved one’s name can evoke a range of emotions; from fear, anxiety, to a feeling of isolation and confusion.
Only a few months ago we couldn’t imagine not hugging a friend or a family member and doing all the things we took for granted. Suddenly we’ve experienced being isolated, lonely or scared of what the future holds.
This is the reality for many people living with the early onset of dementia or memory loss. Unfortunately, it affects 850,000 people in the UK. Caring for someone with dementia can put a huge strain on the families, partners and carer’s own mental health. Women are twice as likely to provide care often having to give up work as a result and can spend as much as 100 hrs a week on average caring for a partner or relative.
So, you can imagine how a few hours of respite is vital to their own wellbeing. Services and help you relied on previously may now not be available. What are the things we can do to reassure your family member or person with memory loss during these times?
Research shows that memories of a melody remain long after a name, face or words are forgotten. It can boost people’s mood and alleviate anxiety. The power of music can evoke a memory or even just a feeling of joy and a way to connect again. When words fail, music speaks.
Other little changes around the house can actually make it less daunting and pre-empt any worries. Something as simple as lighting can help prevent confusion and reduce the risk of falls. Natural lighting is best so open the curtains and if possible, cut back any shrubbery that may block the light.
Reducing extra noise can be tricky but adding soft furnishings such as a carpet instead of a wooden floor will help. Sometimes reflections in a mirror are confusing. Clocks with large displays and contrasting colours to help distinguish surfaces from one another are helpful as sometimes the ability to discern colours is impaired. So, having a brightly coloured toilet seat in a monotone bathroom is a great example.
Labelling cupboards and doors with the added signs of taking care to wash your hands often to prevent spreading the Corona virus is key. You don’t want to cause distress but its important to keep to as many of the government guidelines as possible.
Hopefully these things will become routine and build confidence and reduce stress. Don’t be hard on yourself as a carer; you’re doing your best which is difficult enough. Every effort or gesture however small is beneficial
Elderly relatives would take great comfort in a card or a letter in the post. A drawing from a grandchild, a picture of a happy time together. Don’t underestimate these small acts of kindness. Never a truer saying is relevant today. “Don’t put off till tomorrow, what you can do today”
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Services will resume and many local community groups like The Heather Club in Hemel Hempstead will look forward to welcoming you with open arms into a safe and respectful environment where you can feel part of something again, eat a home cooked meal, take part in singing and dancing and reminisce about old times with the wonderfully warm and friendly staff.
“It’s the laughter we’ll remember, whenever we remember…… The way we were “
Aisling Pinchin helps run the social media for The Heather Club which is based in Hemel Hempstead. The Heather Club is a day care centre for adults with dementia offering sociability and stimulation to people living with early stage dementia and memory loss. For more support and advice please visit us on our Facebook page ‘The Heather Club’.