- Living at home provides familiarity and a sense of purpose
- A person with dementia is still capable of activities they have always done, even if support is required
- In-home support benefits both a person with dementia and their carer
Whether it comes in the form of a physical home modification, a home care package, or support from a family member caring for you, there are plenty of resources available.
Marie Alford, Head of The Dementia Centre at HammondCare and lead strategist for Dementia Support Australia, says living at home is a top priority for people with dementia.
“Everyone wants to be able to live in the location of their choice,” Ms Alford explains.
“You want to be in a familiar environment surrounded by things that have meaning to you and where you have a sense of purpose.
“Just because you have dementia doesn’t mean you can’t live at home either independently or with a carer.”
Below are strategies and ideas of what you can do to retain a sense of independence while living at home with dementia.
Remain informed about your options
Having the appropriate skills, strategies and resources will help you receive the best possible dementia support while at home.
Ms Alford says the more informed you are, the better choices you can make to stay in control of your future. This should include your carer, who is equally important as you can both make the right decisions for your situation.
Start by searching for a local home care provider. Even if you don’t plan to use their services just yet, you will be prepared to make informed choices when your cognitive or physical abilities start to decline. You can learn more about deciding on a provider in our article, ‘Choosing a home care provider‘.
You may even be able to take advantage of early interventions to keep you active and independent for longer.
In-home dementia care is available through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) and Government funded Home Care Packages program. They deliver varying levels of support according to your needs, whether it’s someone who can drive you to the shops or someone to help with day-to-day personal care.
You can even access therapies through a speech pathologist or utilise physical rehabilitation services. This can be covered in a Home Care Package or as part of private care paid for by yourself. You can learn more about private care in our article, ‘Why choose private home care?‘
Remember that dementia support is helpful for both yourself, as a person with dementia, and your carer.
Ms Alford says the supports you access will also ensure your relationship with a carer does not break down into one where it is just care-focused.
Additional support helps maintain a relationship as a spouse, family member or friend, while you live with dementia at home.
Set your home up for success
Ms Alford says that your home environment is an important support system. You want to keep things as familiar as possible, although, there are some beneficial changes to make to avoid overstimulation.
“Have your lighting slightly brighter than normal,” Ms Alford recommends.
“As we get older our eyesight deteriorates but for someone living with dementia who’s cognition is impacted, increased lighting will actually provide better wayfinding for them throughout the home.
“Also ensure that the home isn’t overstimulated with the television and radio on, or you’re in the kitchen talking at the same time.”
She says that easy navigation and wayfinding within the home can also be helped by clear signage and labelling. This will help you remember where items are located, and you can easily help any carer or visitor find their way.
Simplicity around the home means a person with dementia can continue to do the activities they have always done, just with some additional support and guidance.
“It’s important that people stay engaged with what they find familiar and purposeful,” Ms Alford says.
“People with dementia have the same right and ability to undertake things that they would have done in the past.
“Carers, from a place of well-meaning, can help a little too much. You want to make sure there are still opportunities for a person with dementia to contribute to the household and to be an active participant in their own life and the lives of their friends and family.”
For example, putting labelling on all the ingredients required to cook dinner or placing all the ingredients on a benchtop to avoid confusion over not remembering where items are stored.
Home modifications that help avoid injury or hospitalisation are another welcomed addition. For instance, install handrails to assist with movement around the home or ramps in the entryways to remove tripping hazards.
Take advantage of modern technology
Living with dementia is often about simplifying things. You want to reduce stress factors in life as both a carer or person with dementia. Modern technology can provide that help and assistance.
It is common for people with dementia to wander. There could be from a sense of confusion compounded by memory loss, as you may go searching for your childhood home or confuse day with night.
Wearing a GPS watch is a convenient way to ensure a carer doesn’t have to worry about your whereabouts and safety and prevents any serious harm from occurring.
Your smartphone can also help with a wide range of tasks, like setting alarms to remind yourself about medical appointments, social events, when to take medication or even when to eat.
You can also use smartphones to type out notes and reminders, or instantly message someone so others around you can prompt you to do important things.
Social and community support
Maintaining your connection with your social circles, including family, friends and community, and remaining socially engaged is beneficial to your physical and mental wellbeing.
You may feel as though it is difficult to remain socially active as your dementia progresses. There is nothing wrong with taking a rest day or choosing to skip big events where you may feel overwhelmed.
But through hobbies, events and simple conversations, you can keep your brain and body active. Mental exercises are particularly helpful as they build new brain cells and strengthen existing connections, whether it’s solving a puzzle or discussing politics. You can learn more in our article, ‘Mental benefits of puzzles and brain games for older people‘.
You could join a bowls or croquet club, or sign up to a local Scrabble group. Even volunteering at a charity op-shop provides countless benefits as you’re shaking up the weekly routine with new conversations and tasks.
If you are also interested in finding like-minded support in a safe space, there are community dementia support groups.
Dementia Australia has the Connecting Peers program to help link you or a carer with support networks. You can also call them via the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 to find a local community support group near you.
If there is nothing available in your area, consider starting your own support group to engage with other people with dementia.
What supports do you have in place to retain independence and remain living at home with dementia? Tell us in the comments below.