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Common problems - Question & Answers

What do I do if my husband with dementia doesn’t remember what order to put clothes on, puts clothes on back to front, forgets how to do up fastenings, doesn’t realise that clothes are dirty or inappropriate?

You could assist him in choosing his clothes, lay the clothes out in order they need to be put on, avoid clothes with complicated fastenings, replace buttons, zips and buckles with Velcro, lay out clean clothes.

My mother forgets that she needs to wash, how to wash, and also refuses to wash. What can I do to help her?

You will need to have a great deal of patience and tact. You may have to remind her what to do. You could demonstrate e.g. brushing your teeth in front of her, introduce a warm, nice smelling bath as a pleasant experience rather than just the need to wash. She may need assistance with washing because of physical difficulties or need help with personal care, bath aids etc.

How can I help a person with dementia if they forget where the toilet is, forget to go to the toilet or get to the bathroom too late?

The carer can give reminders to go to the toilet, take them before they go to bed, leave a light on at night, make the bathroom door noticeable e.g. a different colour, leave the toilet seat up to help avoid accidents. You could put a picture of a toilet on the door.

What if the person with dementia loses their ability to cook, use the oven, turns the cooker rings on and forgets to light them (gas cookers), forgets food in saucepans which is left to burn?

An electric kettle that turns itself off and safety switches that can be fitted to cookers would be a good investment. There is also new technology in assisted care called Telecare which includes having sensors placed in the home whichcould for example automatically switch off gas devices.

How can I ensure my husband has a balanced diet and is well nourished, particularly if he forgets he has eaten, doesn’t want to eat, forgets how to eat?

Try to have regular meal times, eat with your husband. Spoons are easier to manage than a knife and a fork. Spoon feeding may become necessary, check dentures fit, keep food

simple, give reminders of how to chew, ensure that he has drinks throughout the day.

My wife still wants to go out alone, what should I do?

Encourage her to walk in an area away from busy traffic. If it is not possible you may have to accompany her, encourage her to wear an identification bracelet or carry a card. Use a familiar route and maybe meet up half-way. When youdo go without your wife it could be helpful if you carried ‘a carers emergency card’, so that help can be arranged for herif necessary. (Emergency card – available through Carers of Barking & Dagenham.)

Should a person with dementia still drive?

The DVLA at Swansea and insurance companies should be notified that a diagnosis of dementia has been made. If safety is becoming an issue, it is advisable to talk to the individual about giving up driving. You may meet some reluctance and you may need the backing of your family or someone in authority to persuade the person with dementia to stop driving. You may want to consider other means of transport.

Can someone with dementia continue to smoke and drink alcohol?

Alcohol in moderation is okay. Smoking however needs to be under strict supervision for safety reasons. Should the front and back doors be locked as the person I am caring for has begun to wander? Try to find out why someone is wandering; they may be bored, restless, or looking for things that they have lost. Again, Telecare can help with sensors that will alert the carer that the person has left the house. A curtain can disguise a door and act as a distraction. If wandering is a problem and there are concerns for the individual’s safety it may be preferable to lock doors. However, this should be done with caution, and only when absolutely necessary. At no time should the person with dementia be locked in and left alone. At all times you must ensure that doors can be easily unlocked in case of emergency.

I am getting little sleep as my partner is having disturbed nights, what can I do?

He/she may be looking for the toilet, has slept too much during the day, goes to bed too early, is uncomfortable, wakes up frightened or thinks that it is morning. A low wattage lamp by the side of the bed and gentle reassurance may help to settle them back to sleep. If this disturbance continues you may need to talk to your doctor and enquire about night sitting services.

My father will not let me out of his sight. What can I do?

Try to be patient and offer reassurances that you are close by. He may be frightened and wants to be comforted by your presence. However, it is important that you have some time for yourself and essential to seek help at home, maybe through sitting or respite services. This may be difficult to start with and take time for you and your father to feel happy. In time you will both benefit from some time apart.

I keep getting accused of stealing things by my neighbour who I help to look after. How should this be handled?

This is possibly because she has forgotten where she has put her particular items. Denying you have taken them could cause her to be more agitated and distressed. It may help if you can find any hiding places. Try and discuss this problem with your neighbour’s family as they may be unaware of the problem.

I have noticed that my father is frightened somebody is coming after him. He imagines there are people in the house. What is causing this?

It may be he is suffering from delusions; these are imaginary ideas but are very real to him. Talk to your doctor, your contact person at the Older Peoples Mental Health Team or your Care Manager.

Our sexual relationship has become very difficult, is there anyone I could talk to?

This is a very sensitive and private issue, with no simple solution. There are counsellors trained to talk to people with these kinds of difficulties. Ask your doctor, your contact person at the Older Peoples Mental Health Team or your Care Manager.

Last week my husband began undressing whilst in he street and exposed himself. A member of the public called the police. What should I have done?

Situations like this can be very embarrassing but it helps to explain the situation and will in the main be dealt with understanding and sympathy. This kind of incident does not lead to harmful sexual behaviour.

My sister has recently had aggressive outbursts.How should this be dealt with?

Do not respond with aggression. Keep calm and try to distract her. Over time you may notice things that trigger these episodes, helping you to find ways of avoiding them. If episodes of aggression become frequent you should talk

to your doctor, your contact person at the Older Peoples Mental Health Team or your Care Manager.

I am concerned that my father is having minor accidents around the home e.g. trips, falls. How can I prevent this?

It may be helpful for you to go around the home looking for potential hazards and take some preventative action e.g. Do all fires have a fire guard? Are carpets and rugs secured? Are there any trailing electrical wires? Are stairs and passageways uncluttered? Are kitchen appliances safe? Some of these ‘hazards’ can be easily removed; others will need some specialist items that are available in most DIY shops. Or ask your doctor for a referral for a community occupational therapist assessment. They may be able to put in equipment such as rails.

I am worried about shaving my husband when he can no longer do it himself, suggestions?

You could buy an electric or battery operated shaver for him to use, as this could avoid cuts, and make it easier for you to shave him in the future.