We discover the top tips and dementia-friendly product suggestions from Unforgettable expert panel member Daphne Simpson

Who are you?

My name is Daphne Simpson. I was raised in Florida, in a family where one of my parents was chronically ill and the other was terminally ill. I have, quite literally, been caring for people nearly all of my life.

What expertise can you bring to the Unforgettable panel?

I was a nurse in Florida in the US before moving to England in 2009, and still have licensure there. However, I began my professional care experience when I was just 15 years old, and caring for two autistic boys. Continuing on that path, I then worked for Florida Easter Seals, an autism and disability charity, for five years, caring for mentally and physically challenged children and adults. I became a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at the age of 21 and worked in nursing homes until I became a U.S. Licensed Practical Nurse (L.P.N). As lead nurse in Alzheimer's and dementia care, I spent over five years at two different facitilies caring for more than 30 patients.

Do you have a personal interest in dementia?

Dementia has always been one of my favourite areas to work in. I realise that it's an awful diagnosis for a family to be given regarding a loved one. However, it’s quite different when you are a nurse and you meet the individual at that stage in their life. I have always enjoyed making that connection to the people under my care and feel that it is a great opportunity to care for them until the end of their lives. Since living in England I have continued to care for people with dementia and similar diagnoses.

If a family carer asked you for advice on what could help improve the quality of life for their mother or father who has just been diagnosed with dementia, what would you say?

I would say read as much as you can about dementia to help give you a better understanding of what you might be faced with. Seek out support groups so that you know that you are not alone.

Look through the Unforgettable.org website for information, support and specialised products to help you.

Remember that dementia is a degenerative disease that gets worse with time, which means that your job as a carer will become more difficult over time. Put plans in place so that you can rest and not burn out.

Remember that even though your loved one may appear to be gone from you for good, locked away in confusion, they are still very much there and need to be loved and respected as they would be if they didn’t have dementia. That goes a long way to providing a good quality of life.

What would your advice be for what they should do now and how they can best prepare for the journey ahead?

From the moment of diagnosis it is important to try to help your loved one to retain as much independence and dignity as possible. Look for specially adapted equipment to help you in all areas of life but don't get overwhelmed.

Make a list every so often of the most important issues that you think are effecting your loved one and source products and information for those things.

Be prepared to be extremely patient and flexible. Each day will be different. Make a note of any serious changes and notify the doctor right away.

Never be afraid to ask for help! It doesn't matter if it is a neighbour, a forum, a friend, don't ever feel as though this is your burden to carry alone.

What products would you recommend to help a person caring for someone with dementia?

1. Voice memos
In the early stages lapses in memory come and go but can be very frustrating. If a person with dementia is still living somewhat independently at this time, voice memos which repeat certain useful phrases when activated could help them to remain that way for a while longer.
Suitable for early stage dementia

2. Night time monitoring
I think that keeping your loved one safe at all times is paramount. While you may be with them all day, night time is a different story. We all need rest. Having a night time monitor could help to alert you when your loved one needs assistance. This would allow you to rest easier and to keep them from being disturbed by you checking on them when they are sleeping soundly.
Suitable for mid stage dementia

3. Raised toilet seats
All of us need to use the toilet frequently throughout the day. However, for the person with dementia, who may struggle with mobility and balance issues, sitting down on the toilet can be very difficult. Having a raised seat could decrease the risk of falling.
Suitable for mid stage dementia

4. Wii and games to go with it
I think that the Nintendo Wii and the specially adapted games for it are amazing. It helps to add a sense of fun to the day and keep your loved one active and engaged.
Suitable for mid stage dementia

5. Adjustable bed and a good mattress
In the late to end stages it is very possible that your loved one will be bedbound. Having a proper adjustable bed and good mattress helps to keep them comfortable and allows you to adjust the bed to the correct position while cleaning and dressing them. It is beneficial to both the person with dementia and the carer.
Suitable for late stage dementia.

For more advice on products to help with dementia, click here.