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Dementia Awareness Week: How Care Homes Can Support People Moving in With Dementia?

This Dementia Awareness Week (13 to 19 May), charities such as Alzheimer’s Society have been calling for more to be done to improve the rate of dementia diagnoses. The sooner someone is diagnosed with dementia, the faster support can be put in place for both the person and their loved ones. According to Alzheimer’s Society, one in three people living in the UK with dementia do not have a formal diagnosis. However, knowing what is happening to you or your loved one can help you take steps to prepare for future needs, as well as make your life easier right away.

Many people living with dementia need to make the move into specialist residential care. Especially after things have progressed to the point where handling daily tasks and caring for themselves becomes more challenging. The good news is that there is lots that care home managers and staff can do to welcome new residents who have a formal diagnosis of dementia – or who is displaying signs that they may be affected by the condition.

Help people take the decision

There is no set rule about when someone living with dementia should move into specialist residential care. Each person will be different, and their symptoms will also present differently. In some cases, the person themselves will still be able to recognise that they need extra support and make the decision themselves. They may be able to take part in choosing their care home – looking round and asking questions. Other situations may make themselves clear in other ways, such as safety concerns around coping with the oven, remembering to switch off electric fires, coping with emotions safely and keeping themselves warm and secure at night.

If someone is no longer able to take the decision about where they should live and how best they should be cared for, they should be supported in this by family members or friends. Relatives and loved ones may have Lasting Power of Attorney arrangements in place, which can make the arrangements quicker and easier to handle. Care Managers should make sure that they know who will be involved in any decisions – and what powers anyone acting for someone with dementia may or may not have.

What type of care is best?

Again, there are no rules for what type of care someone with dementia should be receiving. If someone has reached the stage of needing additional support, this may not necessarily mean that they must move into full-time high level care straight away. Other options could include assisted living, live-in carers operating in the home, respite care or a residential nursing home. If your care home provides respite sessions as well as full-time care, you could start by offering this as an option to see what the person and their family members think. This can often help make the transition into full-time care easier and less challenging to cope with emotionally. Encourage staff to take a human-centred, compassionate approach to dementia care, thinking of residents as people first and foremost with emotions and preferences, rather than a list of care tasks.

Sometimes, a move into residential care can come suddenly. For example, after a hospital stay, or if a regular carer, spouse or family member falls ill and can no longer support the person at home. This is where care homes can ensure that they have information on hand and are ready to support a move at short notice, wherever possible. These types of scenarios can involve respite care while alternative arrangements are made, or can be the catalyst for full-time residential care.

Logistics and living arrangements

Moving to a care home can be a strange and disorientating experience for anyone, let alone someone living with dementia. There are lots of things that care teams can do to help make the home seem more welcome and make more sense. Create a quiet space where people can go to calm down if they start to feel agitated and regroup. This is also a considerate facility to offer visitors looking round who have dementia, as new experiences like visits can often come with a lot of stress.

Keep communal areas well lit, with clear signage to help people find their way around. Avoid slip and trip hazards, such as loose rugs or slippery stairs. Steer clear of highly reflective surfaces and complicated patterns on the floor to help people with perceptual problems navigate around. Have furniture that contrasts with the floors and walls to help people see better and avoid walking into things. Keep the care home as free from clutter and as quiet and calm as possible.

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