It can be a daunting and overwhelming time, wrapping your head around what this means, the emotions and changes set to happen and how to manage it.
While just a starting point, going through the different models of dementia care that are used in Australia may help in navigating next steps and seeing the choices available.
Understanding the options and choices can go a long way to finding a safe, human centred approach to dementia care that works for those that need and deserve it most.
Studies have found that staying at home can be beneficial to those who are living with dementia.
Being in a familiar environment, surrounded by familiar objects and family can help people to feel safe and secure.
As much as possible, health care services have created programs to assist with allowing people to stay in their home environment for as long as possible.
Government health care advice highlights how support from family carers, community nurses or paid care workers can assist in keeping someone at home while they live with their dementia.
It is understandable that both someone with a dementia diagnosis and their loved ones may want to keep all the care within the household. However, it is important to know that burn out with care can occur.
Asking for help is always a possibility, and there are multiple avenues to seek out help to assist with the care of a loved one with dementia staying at home.
Helpful methods for the home care model
1. A safe environment
A consistent, soothing atmosphere can be helpful for creating a safe space for a person with dementia. It can assist to limit their confusion and allow them to concentrate and relax.
To create this environment, take the time to go over the household routine, noise levels, the type of lighting, how many mirrors are around, the setup of furniture, even the type of patterns and colours in the house.
Are all these helping to create an environment that has a flow and is easy to navigate? These can be helpful logistical practices to implement when caring for a loved one at home.
2. Noise and lighting
Noise and lighting can be particularly jarring to someone with dementia, so think about turning the radio and TV volume levels down and trying to limit the amount of reflections and glare in the house, as these factors can be frightening to those who have lost their bearings.
While assessing your home for any changes, try to keep them simple. Too great a change can be off-putting and overwhelming.
Making sure the electric kettle has an automatic switch-off, putting up large print calendars or clocks, and ensuring that gates catch easily can go a long way to ensuring safety in the household while maintaining a level of independence.
3. Memory aids
Memory loss is navigated by many with dementia. It can be very alarming for those with dementia when they lose their bearings in their own home. A way to help support them is to create memory aids that they can access easily.
Placing a whiteboard in a well-known location, such as by a favourite desk or the fridge, can help set their bearings. If someone is frequently losing their keys, arrange to have a treasured plate set out where they can always put them.
Putting up photos and well-loved objects up around the home in prominent places can also help to connect your loved one with their past, which can have a grounding and calming response.
Pets have been found to have significant benefits for many people with dementia. Particularly if a loved one has had a pet in the past, they have been shown to boost mood and outlook, as well as encourage good habits of exercise and fresh air.
If there is a pet in the home, carers will need to consistently assess whether the pet is properly cared for, but if both loved one and carer are coping well with a pet, they can be a great source and method of positive outcome.
Carer help and respite care
Another option and method of dementia care practiced in Australia is respite care.
Being a full-time carer for a loved one is a significant undertaking and can be tiring. Respite care is a great option for a full-time carer needing some support.
From getting help with chores around the house, cleaning, laundry or grocery shopping, there are many organisations that partner with the government to provide care to support both those with dementia and their carers.
The Australian Government subsidies short-term care and respite care to make the support more affordable. By creating the option to access short-term help when needed, this method of dementia care is to try and keep loved ones and their carers in their homes, where they feel most familiar and safe, while providing support for carers when they need a break from their routine arrangement.
Australia and its institutions have been working towards better dementia care. One of the ways that has seen progress is technology.
By using technology in innovative ways, you, your network and your loved one with dementia may be able to connect in unexpected ways.
Dementia Australia, Swinburne University of Technology and Lifeview Residential Care collaborated to create an app called, A Better Visit.
Free to download on most Apple devices, this app seeks to engage people living with dementia and their care network through simple games featuring positive feedback, catchy sounds and visuals. The app was designed to stimulate memories and spark social interaction through a safe and fun method.
This underpins a greater push behind the models of dementia care in Australia, that those living with a diagnosis have much to offer, enjoy and collaborate. By tailoring technology in small ways, significant benefits have been enjoyed by many engaging with technology and apps.
Residential aged care home
It is important to acknowledge that a loved one with dementia may eventually need the support of living in a residential aged care home. The type of residential home will largely be dependent on their needs and may be one of two models of care – a nursing home or a dementia-specific facility.
A practice that has been encouraged in Australia is to partner with your loved one, when they are able, in looking at the various facilities that are close to their home and familiar neighbourhood.
This can mean researching and looking over potential homes together, so as to allow the person with dementia to be a part of the decision and have some ownership over the process and eventual choice.
Many care homes provide a trial period to see if the new environment, level of care and general dynamic can work well for your loved one with dementia and their support network.
Australian encouraged practices of dementia care
Dementia Australia has been a powerful advocate for those living with dementia and their support networks.
A 2016 study found that those with dementia can find significant challenges in seeing friends, having someone to confide in and having a friend to call on for help.
While it can seem trivial to think about everyday practices of speech and approach when engaging with someone with dementia, adopting certain practices can make a huge difference in creating a warm, safe and inviting experience.
Used by friends, health care providers and loved ones alike in residential care homes, personal residences and by respite carers, Dementia Australia provides practices for engaging with those with dementia, including:
Regardless of where you and your loved one are in navigating dementia, there are resources and information available to help guide, inform and assist with making the best decisions that suit the care and needs faced.
Be encouraged to always reach out for further information and clarity to your local health care provider and health care network to feel fully informed about options and models of care available for those with dementia.