Dementia: A resource guide for carers and families shares practical strategies, tools and activities to implement when caring for a person living with dementia at home.
Dementia Awareness Month is a national campaign to raise awareness about the condition and provide support to those suffering from the disease or those who are caring for someone with the condition.
Currently the second leading cause of death in Australia, 250 people are diagnosed with dementia every day, which is expected to increase to 318 people per day by 2025.
Co-founder of Home Instead Senior Care Australia, Martin Warner, has shared some of his tips to effectively communicate non-verbally to a person with dementia.
He says it is important to remember that all behaviour is a form of communication and different communication methods can enable family and friends to build trust and support their loved ones.
Mr Warner’s first tip is to express through body language, saying, “Facial expressions and bodily gestures are all signs of communication, and it’s crucial to keep them as positive as possible. Using a light tone of voice and avoiding tense facial expressions are a must.”
He also suggests maintaining good eye contact, never arguing or raising your voice, providing simple choices to the person, and listening with your ears, eyes and heart.
“When you are communicating with someone, ensure there is limited noise and distractions. Maintaining eye contact and speaking at eye level allows for enhanced emotional connection and shows that you are interested in them,” says Mr Warner.
“Asking simple yes or no questions always work best. Make the question or statement easy for them to understand by utilising visual cues. Always be conscious of your voice’s volume and ensure that you don’t engage in arguments, as this is likely to make the individual feel agitated and upset.
“Most of all, opening your eyes, ears and heart to the person would be the most effective way of communicating. Listening for underlying messages, watching their body language and feeling what they feel is the way to fully understand and connect with them.”
The guide encourages quality care for someone with dementia, which comes from the strength of the relationship between the person and their carer.
It’s important when using communication therapies to take into account the personality of the individual with dementia.
Other common communication strategies include Reality Orientation, involving throwbacks to a person's present reality; Validation Therapy that encourages the person with dementia in their view of reality and can help with dementia behavioural symptoms; and Reminiscence Therapy, which aims to capture the journey of an individual through sensory stimulation.
Mr Warner says, “Research has shown that people with dementia benefit significantly from remaining in the familiar surroundings of their home and with their own belongings, in a community environment for as long as possible.
“We hope our Dementia Guide helps loved ones and carers around Australia to have insight about how dementia can affect their loved ones and how to better support them.”
Director and Owner of Home Instead Senior Care Gold Coast, Tweed and Northern Rivers, Chris Davey, says the guide has been a fantastic resource to provide to carers and families of people with dementia.
“We have had some really great feedback from the community. It highlights a lot of areas that are unknown to people,” says Mr Davey.
“There is plenty of evidence to suggest that people [with dementia] are safer in their own home. They also have treasured items around, sure they can move them out of the house and be placed into a facility, but it’s just not the same.
“[People with dementia] are really comfortable in their own home, they are familiar with their surrounds, their neighbours and their yard. A lot of the research shows that people need to be made familiar in their own environment, particularly people with dementia.”
Mr Davey explains that many carers look visibly more comfortable dealing with a person with dementia, and also seem less stressed by the experience, if they have the training and education to handle a person with the condition.
If carers and families are better able to handle the behaviours of dementia, Mr Davey believes this will result in the person living at home for longer, which is vital to living a long and happy life.
To have a look at the new Dementia Guide, head to Home Instead Senior Care website here.