In the UK there are more than £920,000 people currently living with dementia, and this figure is expected to rise to over a million by 2024. Whilst the majority of people with dementia are over 65, it is a common misconception that dementia only affects the elderly, as there are currently more than 42,000 people under 65 in the UK with dementia, and dementia is not just a natural part of ageing but is instead caused by diseases of the brain. There are many different types of dementia and each one has its own symptoms, however, the main common factor is short term memory loss, and this can cause confusion and disorientation.
However, there are simple steps that can dramatically help those suffering from dementia feel more comfortable and relaxed in unknown environments, and it is therefore important that we are all taking action to implement these steps into our services as far as possible to help assist those clients with dementia.
Recognising the signs of dementia
The following are all symptoms that your client could be suffering from dementia, or another illness affecting their memory:-
- They may be unable to retain your name, and may be confused as to where they are and how they got there;
- They may not be aware of the time and date, and may struggle to concentrate;
- They may repeat themselves, or have difficulty finding the right words; and
- They may find it difficult to read and write.
Communicating with your client verbally
The following tips can all help clients with dementia feel at ease and aid their recollection by ensuring they are under as little pressure as possible:-
- Guide your client by using their name before you start speaking to them, or if you notice they are losing concentration;
- Keep your tone relaxed and gentle, and do not rush your client. Allow the client time to think and provide a full answer;
- If your client is struggling to understand, repeat sentences clearly in a steady voice;
- If the client finds it easier to write, then encourage them to do so if they are struggling to recall the word. Using a timeline, symbols or pictures may also help your client;
- Describe your actions clearly such as “the meeting room is just here” and name objects or places, even if you are repeating them;
- Avoid leading questions or questions presented as statements as this may confuse your client’s memory.
Communication with your client in writing
Dementia can also affect a person’s ability to read and write, or to understand the information, and you should therefore ask if they have a preferred format for further correspondence. It may be that they would prefer a larger font, a recording or a telephone call to run through any written correspondence they receive.
The following are all useful steps that can be taken to ensure the client is not confused by any additional correspondence they may receive:-
- Providing your client with information or questions that will be discussed at the meeting so that they have extra time to think about their answers beforehand;
- Providing a recording of your meeting discussions (either written or audio)so that your client has something to refer to afterwards, as they may not be able to recall your meeting;
- Be concise and try to avoid long paragraphs and sentences. Heading can also help the client break down information and bullet points can make it easier for your client to take in information in bite size chunks;
- Try and use paper that is not shiny and is easy to read.
We hope that the above information will help your business take steps to ensure a service is provided that is accessible to those suffering from dementia and helps them feel comfortable and at ease. If you would like further information on Dementia please see the charities https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/ and https://www.dementiauk.org/ . If you would like to help increase awareness of dementia, as an individual or as a business, then you can enrol as a Dementia Friend via https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/.
1. Alzheimers Society 2019, https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/sites/default/files/2019-11/cpec_report_november_2019.pdf;