Looking after a person with dementia: the importance of putting the person first

21 February 2017 .
Mother and daughter laughing

I was moved by David Baddiel's documentary on Channel 4 about his father’s journey in living with Pick’s disease – a form of dementia. This intimate documentary explored the impact of Colin's (David’s father) condition has on his sons' relationship with him – a scenario which many of us may be familiar with.

There are currently around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and the numbers are set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. 

Many people who live with dementia, including those who have not been formally diagnosed with the disease, are being supported by carers who are friend and family members. The difficulty which many people face is how to care for someone knowing there is no cure or effective disease modifying treatment in sight.

However, it’s important to remember that those with dementia can still be supported to lead fulfilling lives. Here are three things you can do to help support someone living with dementia to live well:

1. Understand the person 

As we age our preferences and personalities remain individual, which is why, when support and care are needed, it should be provided in a way that meets the person’s needs and wishes. Try to approach care through the lens of their thoughts and feelings as well as their experiences, rather than seeing them as someone with dementia. In other words put the person first not their dementia.

2. The importance of choice

Giving loved ones choices goes back to putting the person first and their dementia second. Everyone has likes and dislikes, and it’s important to treat the person for who they are and tailoring their care towards this. They too will also have thoughts on what they’d like to do for the day, and by giving loved ones choices in their lives, helping them to live their day in their way, they feel a sense a purpose and control. 

3. Make an emotional connection

As well as the physical needs, those with dementia need emotional care too. It can be a daunting time for them, not being able to remember things is distressing. Feeling out of control is upsetting and can be frightening. Have a conversation and connect with them on an emotional level – they’re still the person you know deep inside.

It’s all about putting the individual and their needs first. This is at the heart of Bupa’s Person First approach to aged care and dementia, which covers everything from quality of care to quality of life.

For more information on what dementia is, the signs of the disease and how to get support visit Bupa’s dementia hub.