More than 850,000 people in the United Kingdom are currently living with dementia, and that figure is set to exceed one million by 2025, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. Unfortunately, life after being diagnosed presents very real challenges, not only for the person with the condition, but also for their family, friends and carers.
Nevertheless, with the right help in place, the quality of life and personal independence of sufferers can be maintained for much longer. The key is to find the very best quality support and this article explains how to do so.
Request a Needs Assessment
The first step to finding cutting edge support is to request a needs assessment, by contacting your local authority. Due to the nature of the condition, it is advisable that any needs assessment is carried out face-to-face and that the diagnosed person has someone with them to take notes and help to explain the situation.
During a needs assessment, your local authority will determine precisely what help is needed, with examples including help with personal care, or assistance with meal preparation. They will also be able to carry out a means test, in order to determine whether financial support is available.
For those with mild or moderate forms of the condition, receiving help within their own home is often the best approach, as it provides stability and independence, while the familiar surroundings can make adapting to their new way of life less daunting. Generally, this kind of assistance will be provided through an agency.
Identify Suitable Agencies
The next step is to draw up a list of agencies that may be able to provide the support that is needed. It is important to choose an agency that offers specialist dementia-related services, as this will ensure the team of carers have experience dealing with people with dementia and will have also received the necessary training.
While agencies will typically use teams of care workers, continuity is essential for dementia-related support. For this reason, you should try to identify an agency that understands this and uses regular teams, so that disruption is minimised. It is also sensible to ask them about the extent of their care workers education, in terms of recognised certificates.
Moreover, you should check their website to ensure they are registered members of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, and that they are regulated by the Care Quality Commission. A report from the most recent inspection will usually be available on the CQC website and you should opt for a provider rated as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’.
An agency that provides cutting edge help and support will likely want to carry out a separate needs assessment, and may be able to offer practical advice about further steps that can be taken to help a patient to adjust. You can use this assessment period to ask questions and decide whether the provider is a good fit.
Quality care agencies and care workers will be transparent, will have testimonials on their website and will be happy to answer any questions. Of course, it is also essential that you choose a provider that carries out DBS checks (Disclosure and Barring Service).
Dementia-Proof the Home
One of the most beneficial ways you can work with providers – and also work independently – in order to improve home life for a person with dementia is to take the necessary steps to ‘dementia-proof’ their house. It is important to consider that the condition worsens over times, so you need to plan with the future in mind.
Among the steps that can be taken to make a home more suitable for long-term living are:
- Ensuring the person has access to plenty of natural light
- Removing mats, rugs and other items that could be tripped on
- Avoiding wallpaper and furniture with overly bold patterns
- Limiting the number of mirrors and reflective items on the walls
Increasingly, research is highlighting some of the benefits of using nature to enhance dementia-related support services and this is an area the Sensory Trust has worked hard on in recent times. Gardens are a good way to provide access to nature, but safety precautions need to be taken. For instance, it is vital that walking surfaces are flat, lighting is sufficient and outdoor spaces are fully secure.
Family Help and Support
Finally, it is not only professional carers who should be working towards providing the cutting-edge care that is needed. Indeed, family and loved ones must also be willing to take the necessary steps to learn how to interact with the person suffering. You can find some advice for daily living support on the Alzheimer’s Society website.
Some agencies offer regular family training and support sessions, which provide more practical in-person advice, so it is worth attending these. It is also important to understand that because the condition can be disorientating, some standard ways of approaching a person could cause distress and so other approach techniques are required.
The Final Word
Ultimately, because it is a condition which worsens over time, finding cutting edge dementia-related support should be a top priority. The keys to doing so are to have a needs assessment carried out, to identify high-quality carers or agencies, and to narrow down options by asking questions and checking inspection reports.
However, it is worth taking a holistic approach, as this will produce the best results. While home-based care-giving is often preferable in mild or moderate cases, steps should be taken to improve the home environment and make it ‘dementia-proof’. Furthermore, loved ones should try to take steps to learn the best techniques for interactions.
Camille Leavold is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of Abbots Care, a home care agency in Hertfordshire. With an experience as a health and social care consultant, she started this care agency in 1995 with an aim to provide quality care services in Hertfordshire and Dorset with trained staff.