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Kitchen

Click on the flowers to learn how symptoms of dementia might make themselves known in the kitchen.

A person with dementia may experience confusion with numbers. For example, they may have trouble telling the time or experience difficulty in gauging the passage of time.

Tip: If you observe this, offer them gentle reminders of specific moments throughout the day, like breakfast, lunch or dinner. This provides their day with order and a more clear sense of time.

Making coffee is the kind of habitual task that becomes difficult for some people in the early stages of dementia. They may forget to add water, add coffee or forget to turn the machine on.

Tip: Support them in continuing with this task by gently prompting them throughout the process.

A person developing symptoms of dementia may frequently misplace things or put them in places where they don’t belong.

Tip: If you notice this happening, don’t call attention to it, but be prepared to look for cases of it happening. This can be another opportunity to gently assist the person by making the task of putting groceries or dishes away something you do together.

A person may lose the ability to do something as routine as turning the stove off after use, and the colour and contrast of the appliance can make it more difficult for them to detect whether it’s on or off. This is where a person’s dementia symptoms may endanger themselves and others.

Tip: Put a simple reminder in the form of a note on the stove, or on the doorframe leading out of the kitchen that reads, “Is stove off?”

Restaurant

Click on the flowers to learn more about the early dementia symptoms revealed in restaurants.

Dementia may cause a person to become overwhelmed by the number of choices, what they are, and what they should order.

Tip: If you see someone having a difficult time, you could start a conversation by asking them what they like, or even making a suggestion. You’ll be assisting them without making them feel self-conscious.

Dementia can affect a person’s ability to perform simple financial transactions, such as paying the cashier from the cash they are carrying. This can seriously affect their sense of independence.

Tip: If you know someone who’s facing this challenge, you could gently encourage them to use a credit card as a way of overcoming the problem. Or, if you can, offering to pay is a good way to help.

Music and the conversation of patrons is part of the experience of going out, but for a person developing dementia, it can be overwhelming. It may lead them to avoid visiting an old favourite spot.

Tip: You can go with the person and provide a reassuring presence, engaging them in conversation. If it persists, you can suggest a quieter destination, or ask to have the music turned down. By explaining the situation, you may help to increase awareness and understanding.

Office

To learn more about the symptoms of dementia that make themselves known at work, click on the flowers.

The lighting at offices tends to be brighter than at home, and the person with dementia may develop a heightened sensitivity to the lighting that makes it difficult for them.

Tip: Work with the individual to explore the options for alternate lighting.

Many of us use reminders, both in the form of notes and electronic messages. You may notice a person with dementia expressing frustration for missing appointments even though they were using reminders.

Tip: Being aware of the person’s challenges and letting them know you’re there to support them is a great way to help. Coming by the person’s desk on the way to a meeting to pick them up and go together is a practical way to assist.

Doing something as routine as operating a phone, transferring calls, etc., may become difficult for a person developing symptoms of dementia. Mobile phones, although capable of being configured with dementia-friendly apps, can be especially difficult.

Tip: If possible, explore the possibility of switching to a landline connection. Landline phones can be easier to use. They also help redirect the person’s attention from the sometimes-overwhelming features of a mobile phone.

The person developing dementia may find the normal noise level at the workplace caused by others’ conversation and working distracting. It may make it difficult to concentrate.

Tip: If you notice a colleague experiencing these kinds of challenges, you can speak privately with them to let them know you’re there to offer support. You can also tell other colleagues to be mindful when gathering near the person with dementia.

Driving

Click on the flowers to learn what signs to look for when driving a vehicle.

When driving, a person experiencing dementia may find it difficult to process the information quickly enough on road signs. As a result, they may easily become lost and be unaware of speed limits and other important information.

Tip: You can help the person when driving with them by helping create a calm environment without distractions, such as the radio. You can also, in a conversational way, comment on road signs to help the person with dementia process them in a timely manner.

For some people with dementia, it becomes much more difficult to judge distances and understand spatial relationships.

Tip: You can suggest the person with dementia not try to park in tight spots, and you may offer to get out of the vehicle and help them park it with hand signals.

A person with dementia may experience difficulty following a simple driving route, even if they’ve driven it many times before. They may find themselves becoming lost much more often.

Tip: You can offer to accompany them and act as a navigator. This can even be done in a subtle fashion, by offering cues such as, “Now, this is where you usually turn, isn’t it?”

Public Transit

Click on the flowers to learn what signs of dementia may become apparent when taking public transit.

A person with dementia may have difficulty getting on the right bus, or getting off at the correct spot. Even if it’s a routine they’re familiar with, they can become confused about transit vehicle numbers and street names.

Tip: If someone looks confused, ask them where they wish to go and help them to determine whether they’re on the right bus.

Some people with dementia begin to experience difficulties telling the time or perceiving the passage of time. This can make taking public transit a challenge.

Tip: If someone you know with dementia takes public transit, accompany them when you can. If you see someone looking confused at the station, ask if you can help.

Disorientation can affect a person with dementia, causing them to become lost in a place even if it’s familiar to them. They also may have trouble maneuvering the stairs of a bus or stairs at the station.

Tip: If you see someone who looks confused or who is having trouble on the stairs, offer your arm to help them.

Dementia may make it difficult for a person with dementia to plan their route using a map.

Tip: If you know someone with dementia who takes public transit, try to make sure they know their route, perhaps using electronic or written reminders. If you see someone who looks confused while looking at a map, ask if you can help them.

Dementia 101

2 in 3 people know someone with dementia.

The more you know about dementia, the more prepared you’ll be to help people with dementia live better.

Learn the basic facts of dementia, how to recognize symptoms, how to better communicate with those who have it, and more.

What is dementia?

Dementia is an overall term for a set of symptoms that is caused by disorders affecting the brain. It’s not a normal part of aging.

Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of memory
  • Impaired judgment and reasoning
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Reduced communication abilities
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks

Dementia is not the same as Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is just one cause of dementia. Other causes of dementia include (but are not limited to) Lewy Body disease, head trauma, fronto-temporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.

When you notice the warning signs of dementia it is important to consult your physician as soon as possible.

Dementia: myth vs. reality

There are many myths and stigmas surrounding dementia. Once you understand what the facts are, you will be better able to support the growing number of Canadians living with dementia.

  1. Myth: Dementia is hereditary.
    Reality: Genetics do play a role in dementia, but for most people there isn’t a strong genetic link.
  2. Myth: Dementia only affects older people.
    Reality: Though most people with dementia are over 65, dementia is not a normal part of aging. A small number of people in their 40s and 50s do develop dementia.
  3. Myth: There is a cure for dementia.
    Reality: Some dementias are reversible; however, many, such as Alzheimer’s disease, don’t yet have a cure. Learn more about dementia research.
  4. Myth: Memory loss means you have dementia.
    Reality: Many forms of dementia do not have memory loss as their first symptom. When memory loss affects day-to-day function, or there are unexplained changes in mood, behaviour or ability, you should visit your physician.
  5. Myth: Dementia is preventable.
    Reality: Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented, but strokes and vascular disease are implicated in over 50% of dementias. What is good for the heart is good for the head – risk of strokes and cardiovascular disease can be reduced by physical activity, good nutrition, controlling blood pressure and being socially active.
  6. Myth: A diagnosis of dementia means life is over.
    Reality: Many people with dementia live meaningful, active lives for many years.
  7. Myth: All people with dementia become violent and aggressive.
    Reality: Dementia affects each person differently, and not all become aggressive. Loss of memory and an inability to understand what is happening can cause people with dementia to express frustration. That’s why it’s important to make the environment as comfortable and calming as possible.
  8. Myth: People with dementia can’t understand what’s going on around them.
    Reality: It varies from person to person and from time to time. Although the person’s ability to communicate verbally may become impaired, it’s important to reach out to the person using all the senses, such as by touch or listening to music.

Recognizing the signs of dementia

Diagnosing dementia must be left to a medical professional, but there are signs we can all look for that may help us identify and assist those living with dementia in our communities.

Non-verbal signs:

  • Standing still or looking around for long periods of time
  • Pacing
  • Dressing inappropriately for the weather

Verbal signs:

  • Difficulty finding a word
  • Creating new words in place of forgotten ones
  • Repeating a word or phrase
  • Being unable to organize words into sentences
  • Repeating the same question within a short period of time
  • Cursing or using offensive language
  • Reverting to a first language
  • Talking less than usual, or remaining silent

For more information on recognizing the signs, please visit http://findingyourwayontario.ca/category/resources/

Communicating with someone who has dementia

Speak to someone with dementia as you would with anyone else, but keep an eye out for cues that they’re having trouble following the conversation, and ask if there’s anything you can do to make it easier for them. If the person is obviously struggling, here are some approaches you can try:

  • Speak slowly and calmly
  • Keep sentences short and simple
  • Ask “yes” and “no” questions
  • Leave lots of time for answers
  • Listen very carefully, and watch for non-verbal communication

And don’t forget to use actions as well as words to help them understand what you’re saying. For example, you could get the person’s coat and indicate with your hands the way outside.

Spending time with someone who has dementia

Be yourself of course, but there are some simple things to remember when interacting with someone who has dementia:

  • Always approach from the front, so you don’t startle them
  • Don’t stand too close to, or over someone when communicating
  • Identify yourself and explain why you’ve approached them
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Don’t correct or be confrontational
  • Keep activities and instructions simple
  • Mind your body language
  • Appreciate the person’s strengths rather than focusing on their challenges
  • Always be encouraging
  • Don’t be rigid, go with the flow

A person is so much more than their dementia

Every person living with dementia is an individual first and foremost, with unique values, personal history and personality.

The more you learn about dementia, the more you will be able to connect with a person who has it in a way that is supportive and inclusive. People with dementia are just like all of us, their quality of life depends greatly on how well they connect with others.

Keeping that connection strong is the most important thing you can do.

You can learn more about behaviour here: http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/Living-with-dementia/Understanding-behaviour