“Good quality care can transform the lives of people with dementia, their carers and families” says Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK.

“It can help patients maintain independent lives, enable family members to keep their jobs and reduce the impact of dementia on families.”

"Every day, around 6,000 people in the UK become carers.”

Quality dementia care can not only impact patient outcomes, but also the wellbeing of those who care for them. Holzhausen explains: “Around 6,000 people in the UK become carers daily. Most people only later realise the impacts, including isolation, loneliness, poor health and financial problems. It is not only partners who are affected: there can be knock-on effects down the generations as children who support parents, and on society as a whole.”

 

Can care replace drugs?

 

Australian research has shown that dementia-aware care can cut the use of anti-psychotic drugs commonly prescribed to dementia patients by up to 86 per cent.

"Dementia-aware care has been seen to reduce drug prescriptions by 86%."

Tailored support, geared towards bolstering mental wellbeing in patients, is also yielding results. Holzhausen says: “Dementia-aware, person-centred care can reduce anxiety, agitation and depression. Music, singing and pet therapy can help, and carers can be trained to recognise the difference between distress reactions and challenging behaviour.”

 

Assistive technology

 

Many carers do not realise that technology is available that can help protect people with dementia and help with care, says Holzhausen. Devices include detectors that can tell if someone is up and active, what room they are in and if someone else has entered the property; fall detectors; GPS trackers that allow you to see if the patient has wandered from home or got lost; panic buttons; and smart plugs that can send an alert, for instance, when a kettle has not been used at the usual time.

 

Simple changes cut confusion

 

Rearranging patients' homes can bring benefits, she says. “For instance, some dementia patients find their reflections disturbing, and changes in perception can make common household objects confusing, so simple changes can help.”

Care homes designed around the needs of people with dementia can also make a difference. Holzhausen points to a Swedish project which includes small dementia-friendly homes featuring extra-wide doors, different colour codes for specific areas, and products designed to make patients' lives easier.

"Dementia-friendly homes featuring extra-wide doors, different colour codes for specific areas."

There are dementia care homes in the UK that feature1950s style decor and 'shops' stocked with products familiar to residents in their younger days. This can be a comfort to people with dementia, because while their memory of recent events can be patchy, memories from decades ago can be clear.

Holzhausen says: “Caring is tough and people should get all the help they can. Find out about practical and financial support for the carer and the person with dementia, local support groups and activities, and later, if necessary, good care homes. Quality care can improve the lives of everyone affected by dementia.”