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Empowering those living with dementia to maintain their independence
After speaking with over 30 carers for loved ones living with dementia, we’ve compiled a shortlist of advice we’ve received that have allowed carers to support the independence of those living with dementia.
Empower the person with dementia to complete instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)
Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are tasks that allow someone to live independently in their community. This includes shopping, using the telephone, doing laundry and washing the dishes.
Often, carers take over these tasks from the person with dementia due to safety concerns, or it is quicker and easier to do the tasks themselves. While understandable, this can be problematic as it can contribute to feelings of helplessness in the person with dementia.
We spoke to one carer, Jenny, who took a deeply empathetic approach to her caregiving and had fantastic success. She was caring for an elderly woman with fronto-temporal dementia called Helen. Helen didn’t want to do her IADLs and was becoming apathetic.
At first this confused Jenny, but after some conversations with Helen, she learnt that Helen had been a secretary for over 50 years, and she felt uncomfortable that she wasn’t working during the day. So, in the adult living centre, Jenny set Helen up with a desk and gave her some documents to file and papers to label during the daytime. Once Helen finished up at “work”, she was far more willing to do her IADLs and her mood improved significantly.
Allowing the person with dementia to take ownership of their daily tasks helps improve their physical and cognitive capabilities, while providing them with something to look forward to day to day (see this study for more).
Label things around the house
Due to changes in the brain, people living with dementia often forget where things are located, or have difficulty determining what items are. However, many people with dementia retain their ability to read. Labelling items, cupboards and rooms can help the PWD navigate around the house and find items that they need to do daily tasks without asking you for help.
Assist in creating a daily or weekly routine
Developing a routine for someone with dementia is key for them to maintain independence. As a caregiver, you can help assist the person with dementia to schedule their tasks for the day and/or week.
It is very important that you do not decide what activities, and at what time, the person with dementia must do. Whilst this may be out of love or concern, it can be frustrating for the person with dementia to do things daily that they either do not want to do, or want to do at a different time.
So, make sure to include the person with dementia when planning each day and/or week. Allow them to decide what they want to do, and when they want to do it. Allowing them to control their day will empower them to control their lives.
Keen to learn more? Check out these resources from Dementia Australia or feel free to respond to this post and we’ll reach out to you.