A new guide with first-hand advice from care workers, family members and dementia specialists in the south west, has been created to help people know how to communicate with a loved one who is living with the condition.
Ahead of Dementia Awareness Week (18-24 May), ‘Listen, Talk, Connect’ has been put together by those caring for people living with dementia and care workers from Care UK, which has two care homes in the south west - The Potteries in Poole, and Sandfields in Cheltenham.
The aim of ‘Listen, Talk, Connect’ is to help those who are affected by dementia and want to understand and overcome communication hurdles commonly associated with the emotionally-challenging illness.
With an estimated one in three people aged over 65 living with dementia and an expected 25 per cent rise in cases by 2021, ‘Listen, Talk, Connect’ provides advice and insight for a growing number of people who may otherwise lose a connection with a loved one living with the condition.
Free copies of ‘Listen Talk Connect’ are available to pick-up from any of Care UK’s two residential care homes in the south west, and the guide is also available to download from the Care UK website www.careuk.com/talk-dementia
Within the guide, contributors share the personal tips and advice they wish they had known when their loved ones were first diagnosed with dementia and there are practical tips on how to keep interactions positive and meaningful. Central to this guidance is understanding that for someone with dementia, their thoughts, opinions and perceptions, which may be distorted, is the only reality they know.
Maizie Mears-Owen is head of dementia at Care UK. Maizie said: “It never gets any less painful and upsetting seeing someone who once was a loving parent, caring husband or affectionate wife lose the connection with their family as their memory travels back in time.
“As a result, visits become less frequent as people worry about how to talk to someone struggling with the disease and wonder what sort of relationship they will be able to maintain as the illness progresses.
“People tell us they just don’t know how to start a conversation with someone with dementia. However, in almost every instance it is still possible to have those longed-for conversations. It just comes down to knowing how.”
Experts explain that it is key to talk about the period that the person with dementia is living in right there and then – whether this is a happy childhood or even the honeymoon period of marriage. More importantly, it is essential to accept the person living with dementia for who they are now, rather than how you may have known them.
Experts also advise never to challenge the person living with dementia, or force them to acknowledge the modern world. Instead, the guide urges people to understand how effective and therapeutic it can be to walk with them down memory lane.
Families and carers also advise that words form only part of the conversation. Maizie explained: “Listening is key when it comes to communicating with someone living with dementia. Not feeling listened to or heard can be a source of great anxiety and frustration to us all – and dementia will only amplify this.”
‘Listen, talk, connect’ advises that by listening and interacting regularly with a loved one, you can help someone to live a fulfilling life despite the disease’s many complex aspects, while at the same time helping to cope emotionally.
Care UK is running a programme of free advice-led dementia sessions at selected care homes across the UK throughout the year, as part of Care UK’s commitment to inform and support those whose lives are affected by dementia. To find your nearest care home and details of any events visit www.careuk.com
Care UK operates 112 care homes across the UK and has a dedicated team of dementia care specialists. There are two residential care homes in the south west including The Potteries in Poole, and Sandfields in Cheltenham.