Tips for maintaining mental health with dementia
September 15, 2020
To mark World Mental Health Day on October 10, Nial Joyce of Clifden House Dementia Care Centre, Seaford, offers his advice on how to help someone living with dementia maintain good mental health.
Anxiety can manifest itself in many ways, causing distress to the person living with dementia (and those caring for them). They may pace, fidget or become agitated. They might follow a person they live with around the house, seeking reassurance, and may want to go to a place they feel safe. Relatives and loved ones can provide support by offering affection and reassurance and being prepared to listen to their concerns.
Depression is common among people with dementia, reportedly occurring in 40 to 50 per cent of dementia sufferers. Depression is often experienced during the early stages of the disease, when the person is aware of the decline in their abilities. Regular exercise, in line with their physical ability, may help improve their mood. However, if the depression or anxiety becomes extreme, it is important to seek advice from a GP, as soon as possible.
As we age, some degree of memory loss is to be expected. This is different to the memory changes symptomatic of dementia. It may mean forgetting basic skills such as how to dress and wash oneself, stored knowledge about life events and the ability to recognise loved ones. Research shows that depression can impact the brain’s ability to retrieve memories, possibly exacerbating existing symptoms. Carers can help to manage memory loss by maintaining a regular routine, avoiding stressful situations and using memory aids such as lists and clear written instructions.
Although hallucinations and delusions that can be experienced by dementia patients are imaginary, they will seem all too real to the person having them and can cause extreme anxiety and distress. You can attempt to minimise the stress by managing the surroundings of the person with dementia. Try to maintain a familiar environment and routines, increase the lighting around the house and use night-lights. Some hallucinations and false ideas can be ignored if they are harmless and do not cause the person to become agitated. Do not take accusations personally and be aware that the person is not able to control this behaviour.
At Clifden House, we place the same importance on mental health as physical wellbeing. High standards of care should be a given in any care home setting. We are passionate about delivering quality of life to all our residents, regardless of how advanced their dementia is. We will answer any questions you may have and aim to make this transition as easy as possible for you and your loved one.