In honour of World Alzheimers Day 2012 Dave Pulsford and Rachel Thompson, authors of the forthcoming book Dementia – Support for Family and Friends, share their thoughts on a recent dementia survey conducted by BUPA Care Homes.

If a member of your family or friend developed dementia and you found yourself caring for them, would you know what to do?
Would you understand the nature of the person’s condition and how it will progress? Would you know how to reply to the person when they talk about things that you find hard to understand?
Would you know what to do when they act in ways that are out of character, or which may possibly be risky to themselves or others?

If you answer “no” to any of these questions you will not be alone. In a recent survey by BUPA Care Homes, two fifths of respondents felt that they would lack the understanding or skills to care effectively for a person with dementia.

We are not surprised that this figure is relatively low. How could anyone know how to care for a person with dementia if they have not had to do so before? Just as new parents often struggle with the skills of childcare, carers of people with dementia frequently find themselves at a loss and their situation is often not helped by the absence in the early phase of dementia of proactive support from professional services.

Small wonder that carers of people with dementia seek outside sources of support and information. Some join support groups convened by organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society and Uniting Carers, Dementia UK. Others seek information on the internet and there are a number of good web sites, including those of the Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK.

Others prefer the familiarity of a book that they can carry around and refer to for information on specific issues; that tells them about dementia and offers advice on how to help the person, discussing a range of caring principles and situations. There is a growing choice of such books on the market.

Our own book, Dementia – Support for Family and Friends will shortly join the catalogue of books for family and friends of people with dementia. It offers a practical approach to understanding and supporting people with dementia at different stages of the journey, includes tips for how to respond to different situations and is informed by the experiences of carers.

Whichever means you choose, we would urge you to seek support and advice if you are caring for a person with dementia. It is a sometimes difficult and bewildering role, but with the right help the person can achieve a good quality of life and “live” with dementia rather than “suffer from” dementia.

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