Is living at home with dementia a viable option?

Moving house is hugely stressful at the best of times, but when you have dementia it can be traumatic. So if you, or a loved one, wants to stay living at home here’s what you need to consider

Could this be you (or someone you know)?

You’ve lived in your own home for forty or fifty years. It’s cosy, comfortable and filled with happy memories. It also feels safe because you know exactly where everything is, and don’t worry about the creaky stairs or squeaky doors. Your memory might be getting worse, but the routine and familiarity of your surroundings means you’re still managing to cope. You have no desire whatsoever to move house. In fact, even thinking about it upsets you.

In a nutshell

It’s hardly surprising that someone with dementia might want to stay living at home and, although you might think they’d be safer somewhere else, you could be wrong because people with dementia often benefit in numerous ways from staying in their home - even if they live alone - for as long as possible.

Three facts worth knowing

1. 85 per cent of people would prefer to stay living at home for as long as possible if they were diagnosed with dementia.
2. One third of people wouldn’t know how to make their home suitable.
3. 47 per cent thought they would be able to stay a home if they had dementia.

Safety

You might need to make some alterations to certain rooms or areas of the home, particularly staircases, bathrooms and kitchens, to ensure they’re dementia friendly but this doesn’t mean you’ve got a major renovation project on your hands. Even small tweaks, such as installing a grab rail, throwing away old slippers and rugs that could cause slips and falls, fitting smoke alarms, or switching to brighter lightbulbs, could make a big difference to their safety and your peace of mind.

Not sure where to start?

Get help from an expert. Ask your GP to refer you to an occupational therapist for an assessment. She will visit you and your loved one at their home and suggest practical ideas for helping them carry out daily activities (such as eating and dressing) as safely as possible. You might even be entitled to a grant or financial help.

Security

When a loved one has dementia the last thing you want to have to worry about is theft or burglary. Take advantage of the latest assistive technology gadgets such as tracking devices, sensors, cameras, key safes and memory aids in which you can record messages reminding them to lock doors and windows before they go to bed, or not to take lots of cash with them when they go out.

Staying healthy

Are they eating and drinking properly? A healthy balanced diet could keep them feeling happier and more alert, and it needn’t involve cooking complicated meals. Also, check their fridge and food cupboard regularly for out-of-date food and, whenever possible, make sure they’ve got a couple of tasty meals or snacks ready to eat each day.

Can’t manage on your own? Ask for help

Making sure a loved one with dementia stays safe is a big responsibility. It’s hard enough if you are a full time carer who lives with them, but if you’re also trying to manage your own home, family and maybe even a job, it can quickly begin to feel overwhelming.

The last thing your loved one would want is for you to become stressed and miserable. Enlist support from others, not just relatives (who may not live nearby), and confide in friends and neighbours you trust. Could someone hold a spare set of keys? Could someone else pop in to see them when you’re at work? Remember, a person with dementia can become very lonely and bored if they spend a long time on their own – a short visit could brighten their day.

What are you entitled to?

If you haven’t already had one, ask your local social services department for an assessment of need. Your loved one might find they’re able to get meals delivered to them at home, help with housework, or community transport. They – or you - might be entitled to benefits too which could make life a little easier.

Your emergency plan

It’s really important to plan for the worst, whilst trying very hard to make sure it never happens.
Check:
- Your loved one has phone numbers for everyone they might need – from family, to a GP or carer – either programmed into their phone or stuck to a wall where they can see them.
- They have an alarm or pendant they can press to call for help.
- You have the contact details of at least one person (preferably more) who lives nearby and could pop in to see them if you’re really worried.

Good to know

You aren’t alone. As awareness of dementia increases, everyone is becoming more understanding of and compassionate towards people with dementia. With this in mind, the Government’s Dementia Friendly Communities Programme is having considerable success in creating communities which are more ‘dementia friendly’. For example:

- Schemes such as Dementia Friends are proving a really successful way to help ease isolation and depression.
- The Dementia-friendly technology charter is also helping to make sure that people with dementia (and their families) can make the most of new technologies and remain independent for as long as possible. Click here to find out more.