With the overarching theme of ‘Empowerment’, World Alzheimer’s Month 2020 aims to empower and enable every person in Singapore’s dementia community.
Everyone deserves to live meaningful lives #DespiteDementia, and we can help make a difference by creating an enabling environment which empowers those living with dementia to live with dignity. Here are some ways that we can make a difference.
Promoting Independence In The Home
For caregivers who are living with persons with dementia, there are some simple ways to help our loved ones to go about their daily routine whilst maintaining a level of independence, especially at the early stages of dementia. By making the home safer for persons with dementia, you enable them to take care of their needs without the need to have someone constantly hovering around them, which can lead to frustration.
An important part of making the house safer is to assess all the rooms and corridors for trip hazards or obstacles. Make sure there are no loose carpets or rugs, set up your wires and cables so that they are not lying across the floor, and ensure adequate lighting throughout your home, especially for the evening and night times when natural light is not sufficient. Placing handrails in danger spots like stairs, entrances, and the toilet can also help your loved one to stay safer.
Clearly labelling doors and cupboards will also help the person with dementia to find things more easily. If your loved one needs reminders to drink water and stay hydrated, leave cups in visible locations and use audio or visual cues as a constant reminder. You should also consider labelling taps as hot and cold for easier and safer use.
You can also help your loved one live more independently by setting things up in advance. For example, lay out their clothes for the day in the morning, but allow them to dress themselves, assisting them only where necessary. If having a choice in their outfit is important, allow them to pick between a few different shirts or bottoms for the day. This respects their preferences while keeping the options manageable, rather than asking them to pick from a whole pile of clothing.
Family caregivers can also consider using technology to keep seniors safer while giving them space to themselves. You can place movement sensors to keep track of which rooms your loved ones have moved to, and can check on the person of dementia if there has been not much movement for a time. Smart watches also help with tracking and managing their health.
Encouraging Physical Ability
It is important to try and encourage the person with dementia to remain active; by keeping physically strong as far as is reasonable for them, they will be able to stay independent for longer, and even moving about their home more safely without a family member having to constantly give them support.
Before starting physical activity, make sure they have the essentials, like comfortable footwear and appropriate clothing that is comfortable and breathable. Talk to the person with dementia about the type of activity that they enjoy and be realistic about how much they can do at a time. The aim is to keep them active, and not to push them to the point of exhaustion.
For persons with dementia with limited mobility, there are plenty of chair-based exercises that you can use. ADA has uploaded various stay-home workout videos on its Facebook and YouTube where viewers can follow seated exercises as shown by ADA’s New Horizon Centre staff, accompanied by familiar English, Chinese, and Malay songs. Similarly, SportSG has prepared a variety of videos for sitting and standing exercises which can be suitable for persons with mild to moderate dementia.
Focus On Abilities
Even as dementia progresses, the person with dementia may still be able to do some activities independently. Encourage their participation where possible, even if they will need some help to complete the full task. For example, even if preparing a meal is too challenging to complete alone, the person with dementia can still help with part of the task such as washing vegetables or setting the table. Allow them to contribute in ways that are reasonable for them, instead of disempowering them by assuming they cannot help.
Talk About Dementia
It’s important to talk about dementia and its challenges to people who do not understand, whether these are friends, family, or strangers in the community. Share your experiences in ways that you are able to, and speak out when the opportunity arises. As someone whose life is affected by dementia, you are an important voice of the community, and by sharing that the condition does not define your life, or reduce your loved one’s dignity, you are taking a step to helping someone fight against any preconceived stigma against the condition.
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