In my house performing daily essential tasks such as making dinner and paying bills becomes harder and harder while living with a loved one with dementia. Throughout the years of having my nan live with my family and me, it was inevitable that her dementia would progress, but with that progression comes a loss of independence for my nan as well as my family and I. My experience with dementia has depicted my nan becoming clingy with a constant need for supervision and attention. However, I found several products that made it a little bit easier for us as a family to provide in-home aged care, while also having a positive reaction from my nan. Here are my personal dementia care tips and the products we now cannot live without.
Finding myself home alone caring for my nan while trying to complete daily chores, has become impossible without the aid of an entertaining distraction. In my house, the words, “Well, I’m off home now”, are dreaded. This happens if my nan feels she doesn’t have your undivided attention. At first, I tried purchasing products to entertain my nan that was aimed at her age or were dementia-specific, although I found these products to be not only expensive but hit and miss. However, one of the main dementia care tips that I personally found more success with, were found in the children toy section in large department stores. My nan has always been an affectionate person, she has raised five children and still finds comfort in interacting with children. In my nan’s dementia state, she often asked for “the baby”, usually my mother or myself, explaining to her that we are all grown up and it is difficult and unexpected.
The first product we tried was a dementia doll. This was a beautiful baby doll that looked and felt like a real baby. The doll was weighted to depict a real baby and the gorgeous features on this doll are undeniable. Despite all this, there was nothing interactive about this doll and after a short time of being dazzled by the beauty of this doll, my nan became tired and she was off home again. One day I saw an ad on TV for a doll called Luvabella, this was an interactive newborn doll aimed at children. It makes baby sounds, sleeps, simulates breathing, and can take a bottle. Luvabella has become indispensable in our house as my nan just loves her baby and takes care of it for hours on end.
On the subject of dementia care tips, another indispensable interactive item in our house is a Fur Real Cubby Bear. I had contemplated getting nan this bear for some time, as I thought it way be beneficial but did not want to cause offence, with this product being undeniably a children’s toy. Yet words cannot describe the joy this bear brings to my nan and they interact with each other for hours. The bear can play peekaboo, be fed a bottle or honeycomb, go to sleep and play lullabies. For my nan, the most important feature is that it communicates or speaks in its own bear language and nan and Cubby Bear are able to talk for hours. (The bear doesn’t seem to mind the repetitiveness of the conversation.)
Additional dementia care tips I would also recommend are wooden puzzles. My nan is now passed the stage in her dementia, where she can complete crosswords, word searches and other adult puzzle books. However, wooden puzzles have been a great way to keep my nan entertained while stimulating brain function. She has two favourite wooden puzzles that she loves, the first one being wooden tangram puzzle. Nan can happily spend hours arranging the shapes of this wooden tangram and seems to be really enjoying herself. The second is a geometric shape puzzle (aimed at both dementia patients and children) and it is a wooden stacking and shape sorting puzzle. These puzzles offer hours of entertainment, and keep my nan happy and entertained.
Reading is also something we found to be very helpful. My nan had always loved to read, but now regular novels are just too overwhelming for her. However. I was able to find some of her favourite classic novels in the children’s section of my local book shop. These hardcover books are large in size and come with large font and beautiful illustrations. My nan really engages in these books and reads them cover to cover. Reading these books not only increases her brain stimulation but gives her a feeling of accomplishment, keeping her in good spirits.
My nan has reverted back to a lot of her childlike ways and interestingly has a real fascination with her name. When it comes to other dementia care tips, I was able to get some personalized storybooks printed online with her name in the title. My nan is the main character and embarks on a new adventure in each book. Each time my nan reads them we see a different reaction, all positive. Sometimes my nan thinks it is a coincidence that the main character has the same name as her, and comments, “you don’t hear that name much, now”. Other times, my nan thinks it’s more like a diary entry and believes she really went on an Easter Egg hunt with her mum. Every time nan reads her personalized books, it brings her laughter and joy.
Keeping with the theme of my nan’s name, I have also had personalised mugs printed with her name on them. My nan loves these mugs, as much as she loves a nice cup of tea. Nan always comments on her name on the mug, with the biggest smile on her face. The mugs are great as they have a large handle on them, which makes them easier for her to hold on to. (Although the mugs were made at a photo shop, they have her name only. Photos of my nan and dementia don’t always mix, as she is always a different age in her mind.)
Arts and crafts also become harder for my nan, as dementia sometimes causes shakiness practically in the hands. Making a mistake on an art project can upset my nan and leave her in a bad mood. Therefore, I found felt picture boards are essential for my nan, as she can use her creativity and artistic ability free of mistakes, and best of all there is no mess.
All of these products are a vital part of managing dementia through in-home aged care and play a huge role in my personal dementia care tips. Not only does it provide some much-needed freedom for my family and me but it also plays a huge part in keeping my nan happy and healthy. These products allow my nan to use her imagination and creativity and help to improve brain function. These products are suited to my nan and may not work for everyone, which product is used at which time is dependent on the situation.