Diagnosed with dementia?
If you or a family member, or friend has just been diagnosed with dementia, you may be feeling numb, scared and unable to take everything in. It’s totally normal to feel these feelings, give yourself a little time to adjust.
Once the initial feelings have passed, it’s time to try to move on and create an action plan. Creating an action plan for the future ensures your wishes are in place and these can be shared with your family and friends.
Services and support
Find out what’s available locally so that you’re prepared and able to call on this support as and when you need it.
Services arranged by local authorities vary between areas but may include home care services, equipment and adaptions for your home. Some services, such as community nursing, are arranged through the NHS.
Even if you have suspected for a while that you or someone you love might have dementia, the diagnosis may come as a shock. People with dementia should continue enjoying their usual activities and try to remain as independent as possible.
Supporting someone with memory loss
People with memory problems will find it hard to remember recent conversations and events. The part of the brain (the hippocampus) that allows new information to be processed may be damaged. This makes it harder for the person to form new memories and learn new information. The person may forget a conversation they’ve had, something they’ve recently done, or an appointment or plan.
It is important to remember
The person isn’t being difficult or ignoring you. Their brain hasn’t kept the information, and so it may feel like the first time they’ve heard it.
The following tips may help.
Avoid telling the person they have heard the information before
Ask yourself whether it really matters if the person remembers a recent conversation or event. Forcing the matter can make things worse
Set up a regular routine. This can make it easier for the person to remember what is going to happen during the day.
Encourage them to use a diary or journal to record things that have happened. Pictures and words are useful tools. They can be used to remind the person what they have done, as a conversation starter
Include cues and prompts, and try to give context instead of asking vague questions. For example, “It must be a while since breakfast. Are you hungry?” rather than “Have you had breakfast?”
Consider using reminders such as sticky notes or a wall calendar for one-off tasks, and more permanent reminders for tasks the person does more often (such as keeping a note by the door to remember keys and wallet)
Consider assisted technology devices, such as an automatic calendar clock to help the person remember important things
Focus on one thing at a time: giving the person too much information may be overwhelming
Keep information simple, and repeat it often (if necessary)
Approaches for coping with memory loss
There are a number of different approaches that can help people with dementia to cope with memory loss and the feelings it can cause, such as frustration and loss of self-esteem. Some of these techniques may require professional input, for example from a nurse, counsellor or a therapist, but they can also be useful for family carers.
Life story and reminiscence work
Life story involves the person with dementia making a personal record of important experiences, people and places in their life.
They work with someone (such as a family member or professional) to do this. Their personal record can take the form of a book, photo album or something they create digitally (for example on a tablet computer). Many people find life story work enjoyable and it may help with memory problems. It can also be used as a prompt or to help professional carers understand more about the person.
Reminiscence involves encouraging a person with dementia to talk about a period, event or subject from their past. It can be done in groups or on a one-to-one basis, and the person can do it with a professional or a friend or family member. Reminiscence is often done using prompts such as music, objects and photos, which can be general or specific to the person. It can help to maintain people’s self-esteem, confidence and sense of self, as well as improve social interactions with others.
Sometimes life story and reminiscence work may bring back difficult memories and the person may become upset. If this happens, the person should be supported to express their feelings and to address the memory (if they feel comfortable doing so).
Cognitive stimulation including stimulation therapy (CST)
Cognitive stimulation involves activities and exercises that stimulate thinking, concentration, communication and memory in the person with dementia. It is usually done in a social setting such as a small group (although it is possible to have one-to-one sessions). It involves talking about day-to-day interests, reminiscence and information relating to the current time and place.
Cognitive stimulation therapy (CST)
Cognitive stimulation therapy (CST) is structured treatment that takes place in groups. It lasts several weeks and can help with memory and other mental abilities. Group cognitive stimulation is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for people with mild to moderate dementia.
Cognitive rehabilitation is where the person with dementia works together with a therapist on specific difficulties they would address. For example, remembering names of people they have met and how to achieve this. This approach focuses on what is important to the person and those closest to them. It can also help with memory and attention.
- Support the person to do as much for themselves as possible by breaking tasks down into smaller, similar steps.
- Try to find ways to make tasks easier by putting out things the person will need to complete an activity, for example tea bags, a mug and sugar.
- Keep work spaces clutter free and leave regularly used items in the line of sight.
- Use reminder signs to prompt the person, such as simple instructions for using the microwave.
- Make adjustments to the environment that make things easier for the person, such as labelling cupboards with pictures or what is inside and making sure areas are well lit.
- Consider asking for help from an occupational therapist. They will be able to advise on coping with strategies and suitable devices for helping with day-to-day tasks.
- As dementia processes the person may get lost within their own home, or not recall that where they are now is their current home. They may revert to a memory of a former home (such as a childhood home).
To help, you could do the following:
Make sure there are familiar items that clearly belong in the person’s home, such as ornaments or familiar objects
Have a reminder of the home address, for example ”This is 23 the Avenue, Windsor” somewhere it can be seen, for example by the front door or on a whiteboard in the kitchen.
Talk to the person about the home they used to live in, and what it means to them. It can help to place it in the past.
Dementia UK helpline and website
Anyone with a question or concern about Dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) can call our Dementia Helpline for free on 0800 888 66 78, send an email to [email protected] or visit the dementia uk website for further information at
Carers Together offer local, friendly and confidential services that aim to ease the pressure of caring. Our team of staff and volunteers are on hand to help carers with any issues they may face, including benefits, health problems, housing, training, employment, taking a break from caring or concerns about the person they care for.
Tel: 01642 488977
Email: [email protected]
Visit the carers together website
A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action – anyone can be a Dementia Friend.
Whether you attend a face-to-face Dementia Friends Information Session or watch the online video, Dementia Friends is about learning more about dementia and the small ways you can help.
From telling friends about Dementia Friends to visiting someone you know living with dementia, every action counts.
Sign up to be a Dementia friend
Visit: the dementia friends website to sign up
Write any notes or questions you may have below:
More information can be found online at the website Physiotherapy for breathing pattern disorder
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would like your feedback. If you wish to share your experience about your care and treatment or on behalf of a patient, please contact The Patient Experience Department who will advise you on how best to do this.
This service is based at The James Cook University Hospital but also covers the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, our community hospitals and community health services.
To ensure we meet your communication needs please inform the Patient Experience Department of any special requirements, for example; braille or large print.
T: 01642 835964
E: [email protected]