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One step at a time – Living well with dementia

Dementia advice

It’s a common myth that life stops after a dementia diagnosis 

It’s possible to live well with dementia, and in this chapter of 'One step at a time', Care UK’s experts share advice on how to do just that throughout the stages of dementia. 

Living well with dementia

Keeping the brain stimulated 

Regular Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (known as CST) has been shown to keep people living with dementia mentally and physically active for longer, which is key to helping them to live well with the condition. 

Activities can be as simple as looking through photo albums and reminiscing with family members. Discover more examples in the list below. 

Activities to stimulate people living with dementia:

  • Baking – Baking engages all the senses, and the process of mixing ingredients or kneading dough often brings back fond memories for people living with dementia. It's also great for motor skills and coordination. 
  • Music – Not only does music stimulate the mind by encouraging reminiscence, but it also helps individuals express their feelings. Even in the advanced stages of dementia, rhythm often remains, and many people can sing even after they lose their speech. Create a playlist, or use the one below, and see what conversations it sparks with your loved one. 
  • Animal therapy – Another sensory experience is pet therapy, which evokes comforting memories of family pets, often making individuals living with dementia feel safe. You don't even have to get up close – birdwatching is a fantastic way to spend a few hours in the outdoors. 
  • Puzzles – Word searches, crossword puzzles, sudoku and quizzes are great ways to keep the brain stimulated. 
  • Reminiscing – Spark fond memories by looking through photos or old cards. A memory box is another good way to keep the conversation flowing. 

Staying active and fit 

It’s just as important to stay physically active as it is to stimulate the brain. 

Whether it’s going to the shop to pick up the morning paper, taking a walk to post a letter or visiting a local community group, these rituals are useful ways to stay active. 

In Care UK care homes, we encourage residents to keep fit and have a sense of purpose. This can be simply making their own cup of tea, doing their ironing or folding napkins before a meal.  

While these tasks might seem small, they can be critical for wellbeing. For example, Care UK’s dementia expert Suzanne Mumford says that while it might be easier to give someone living with dementia a bowl of cereal, letting them go through the process themselves – getting a bowl, opening the box, and so on – is an important ritual. If these steps from their normal breakfast routine are removed, you may find they don’t want to eat their breakfast. 

Activities for every stage of dementia 

There are three stages of dementia: early, moderate and advanced. While these are each distinct stages, you might find that they blur at the edges as every person living with dementia has a unique experience. Here are a few ideas for keeping active at each stage of dementia. 

Early dementia:

  • Do jigsaws, crosswords and quizzes 
  • Take walks 
  • Listen to an audiobook or radio show 

Moderate dementia:

  • Watch a theatre performance 
  • Listen to music 
  • Reminisce over photos 

Advanced dementia:

  • Introduce Namaste care, including gentle, calming touch and other sensory stimulation 

Maintaining a healthy diet 

As dementia progresses, it becomes important to keep an eye on hydration and nutrition levels. People living with dementia might forget to eat or alter their eating habits as their tastes change.  

Our chefs are trained to help residents dine with dignity which means that every resident, no matter their barrier, is supported to have a quality dining experience. 

They make sure food is available and tempting for those living with dementia. For example, someone living with dementia might not choose to eat an apple from a fruit bowl, but they could find it more appetising when it’s cut up for them. 

Another way Care UK chefs help those living with dementia is to present show plates – these are sample plates of each meal on offer, so residents can see and smell the options to help them choose what to eat. 

Our chefs work with each person individually to develop a catering plan tailored to them. 

The next stage of the dementia journey 

Throughout the dementia journey, it’s important that family carers look after themselves too. In our next video, our experts share advice and pathways to support those providing care for their loved one. 

Explore more from our dementia video guide:

More advice and support from Care UK

At Care UK, we support people living with dementia to live life to the full. You can discover more about our approach to dementia care, or visit your local care home to learn more about the services we offer.