Dementia – Little things go a long way
When caring for a loved one with dementia we have so much to think of and do, medications, appointments, getting the home and affairs and finances and shopping in order, and on and on goes the list. It is very easy to overlook the huge benefits of some of the smallest things. Here we take look at how something as simple as having a cup of tea can help someone with dementia and look at the huge range of benefits that we can take from slowing down and popping the kettle on…
According to Holly Hart, L.V.N., director of residential health services at Claremont Manor, California, people with dementia or any form of memory loss "thrive on familiarity." She says "familiar faces, a familiar environment, even familiar food—anything they can use as a touchstone."
Daily routines can actually help transfer that activity into the ‘long-term’ memory part of the brain and help a person feel safe, secure and more in control over daily events. By sitting down at the same time daily and having a cup of tea, not only are you giving yourself a moment of peace, you are giving your loved one a very important feeling of security.
Sitting at or below eye level in a non-threatening manner over a cup of tea can put someone at ease to communicate; this is a great time to talk and also to listen.
Some tips to communicate with someone suffering with dementia – talk positively, slowly, calmly and in easy to understand sentences. When someone has difficulty communicating they can become less and less willing to have a conversation, you can encourage them by talking about non-threatening subjects, the garden, the weather, music, and keep it upbeat and easy to follow.
People with dementia can become undernourished, it can affect their desire to eat and drink, providing regular refreshment and using it as a positive activity can encourage better nutrition and wellbeing. Try coupling a cup of tea with a nutritious flapjack, fruitcake or nutty biscuit.
Why not use your ‘tea-time’ as a time for relaxation, a momentary pause. Listen to a tape, moisturise your loved ones hands or feet – if physical touch is appropriate it can be of great comfort. It can also relieve stress for caregivers to have half an hour out of a busy day to think about nothing but the moment – it will also be moments like these you cherish when you look back upon them.
Opportunity for an activity
Why not couple a cup of tea with a puzzle book, a radio show, a quiz (depending on stage of dementia), reading your loved one a book or newspaper, or, if they are up to it, listening to their memories or looking at photos, these activities can help keep memories around for longer and strengthen bonds and positive mental health.
Some patients may be advised against caffeine, in which case there are great alternatives, decaf obviously, Roobus or Red Bush is naturally Caffeine free or there are many herbal options available. We use teatime as a great meeting point in the day where you and a loved one can refresh, communicate and enjoy some time together, but any beverage would of course work just as well!