If you are close to someone who is living with early dementia, this can be a difficult and worrying time for both of you.

There’s a lot to think about, but here are some small ideas to help to make life easier and help you set up some helpful routines now.

Encourage them to get a diagnosis

If they haven’t already been medically diagnosed, it’s really important that they have an assessment administered by a medical professional in order to get a proper diagnosis.

If someone is diagnosed as living with dementia, the earlier they are diagnosed the better, as they can improve their quality of life with early monitoring, support and treatment.

There isn’t one single test that can diagnose dementia. A dementia diagnosis is based on the results of a series of assessments, which will be carried out by a GP or by a specialist at a memory clinic or hospital.

You can go with someone to their GP appointment if they agree. If the person is resistant to going to the GP and you have concerns, you can contact their GP yourself and talk to them about this. The GP might be able to speak to your loved one and try to persuade them to come in for testing.

Alternatively, your loved one might feel more comfortable if you can arrange for the GP to make a home visit to them.

Make them aware of support channels

There are several organisations across the ok who can offer free advice and support about all stages of dementia, including Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK. 

If you are providing informal care to someone living with dementia, there are also carer’s support groups and online forums where you can meet and chat with people in the same situation. Sharing your feelings can help to reduce isolation and might help you get another perspective on any issues you might have. 

Find out more about the support available.

Start a memory book

A memory book is a collection of photos, pictures, memorabilia or descriptions that you can collect in a scrapbook together over time. Making a memory book is a project you can work on together and it can be enjoyable for your loved one to reminisce as you work on it.

A useful starting point is to talk to them about their life in order to slowly build up a scrapbook or similar of information on their interests, achievements, happiest times, dreams, family tree, inspirations, favourite music, allergies, etc. The more detail, range and information the better. 

This can help to remind the person of details that may be forgotten later on in their condition. It is also a nice reference point for any future carers to get to know your loved one and be able to ask them questions about. 

Depending on both you and the person who has dementia, sometimes creating a book like this is not appropriate, but it can be a very helpful tool in the longer term when possible.

Encourage involvement in day to day tasks

In the early stages of dementia, many people are able to enjoy life in the same way as before their diagnosis.

As symptoms progress, the person may feel anxious, stressed and scared at not being able to remember things, follow conversations or concentrate.

It’s important to support the person to maintain skills, abilities and an active social life. This can also help how they feel about themselves.

Encourage the person to help with everyday tasks, such as:

  • shopping
  • laying the table
  • gardening
  • taking the dog for a walk

If needed, memory aids used around the home can help the person remember where things are.

For example, you could put labels and signs on cupboards, drawers and doors. These don’t have to be written – you could draw a representation of what is inside instead.

Stay organised and in a routine

Getting into good routines now will make life easier in the future. If your loved one tends to leave house keys in different places, for example, searching for them is only going to get more frustrating for your loved one as time progresses.

Here are some tips:

  • Put keys somewhere easy to find and always return them to the same place
  • Write down all appointments and events and make sure they are prominently displayed, for example on a wall calendar 
  • Draw up a weekly timetable and refer to it often
  • Encourage your loved one to put their bills on direct debit so there is no risk of forgetting to pay them
  • Keep a consistent daily routine, with meals at similar times
  • Put medication into plastic daily pill organisers (available online, in pharmacists and in mobility shops) to help with knowing what to take and when

More information about how to make sure their home is safe and secure.

Take time for yourself

If you are helping to look after the person who has been diagnosed with dementia, it’s vital that you also look after yourself.

Caring and putting someone else’s needs before your own can be challenging, both mentally and physically. Stress, tiredness, isolation and financial worries can exacerbate an already difficult situation, so it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed. 

Keeping up with your own hobbies and activities is important, to retain your sense of self and give your mind a way to unwind. There are also support groups and online forums for informal carers to chat and get support.

Find out more about looking after yourself as a carer.  

Related Articles

Looking after yourself

When caring for someone it is important to also look after yourself, view our tops tips on how to best do this

Types of Elderly Care

Guide to the different care services available to the elderly

Where to look for care

Many of us need some extra help in the form of care, this article helps advise on where to start looking for this