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Support your loved ones by getting involved in Dementia Action Week

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Every year, the Alzheimer’s Society holds Dementia Action Week to unite people across communities to help improve the lives of those affected by dementia. As we approach the event this month, we take a look at how you can help dementia sufferers in your family and in the wider community.

Living with dementia is difficult but that doesn’t mean it should also restrict someone’s happiness or quality of life. When reaching out to someone with dementia, it can be a worry that you might accidentally say the wrong thing. This is why Dementia Action Week 2019 is focused on the theme of ‘starting a conversation’.

Locations up and down the country will be holding events during the week of 20th – 26th May that you can join in with. Alzheimer’s Society will also be releasing a new film featuring children interviewing older people living with dementia. This aims to challenge the misconceptions surrounding the disease and to show that people still have their own personalities and senses of humour inside.

If you’re not able to make it to a specific event during Dementia Action Week, you can still show your support by engaging with those in the community. There are plenty of activities that have been proven to enhance the quality of life in those living with dementia, which you can do to help loved ones.

Reminiscence activities

Dementia tends to have a significant effect on short-term memory in the brain, but a person’s long-term memory may be a bit more accessible. This is where it can be useful to engage in conversations particularly about past events and old memories.

Noting down some key points of the conversation can also help you to put together some special activities at a later date. If a loved one has perhaps spoken of fond memories about painting or visiting a certain place, you could make arrangements to do some arts and crafts or take a day trip to revisit a familiar location.

Taking a look through old photographs can also be a good conversation starter as they may be able to tell you the background story of certain images and even a little bit about the people in the picture. They may fondly remember the clothing styles at the time, as well as the popular culture and entertainment, which can also be great avenues of discussion.

Music therapy

More than many other stimuli, music has been widely documented as a positive way to trigger memories and provoke responses. Certain songs that were popular in the past can help somebody to recall certain memories. Thanks to modern technology, huge libraries of music past and present are available online through services like Spotify, iTunes and YouTube.

Alongside its effect on memory, music can help someone to express or understand certain moods. This is because the brain processes music differently to language, so if a person with dementia is struggling with their words, music may be able to help them.

You can use soft, quiet and gentle music to create a calming atmosphere, while upbeat and jolly sounds can help to promote more of a physical response like dancing or clapping. Music therapy offers a great way of providing care to those affected by dementia at relatively little cost or preparation.

Include youngsters

It’s important for both older individuals with dementia and younger relatives to engage with each other. Even though someone may have dementia, a lot of positive reactions come as the result of being around children and communicating with them.

If children are aware that someone is dealing with an illness, they may find it a little scary or intimidating to be around. That’s why encouraging younger people to also get involved can help them to feel more comfortable around dementia sufferers and to break the stigma surrounding the disease.

This is further highlighted in the new short film by the Alzheimer’s Society that will be showcased during Dementia Action Week. It promises to include kids asking people with dementia a series of thought-provoking and sometimes funny questions to show the personalities of the people behind the condition.

Dementia Action Week takes place from 20th – 26th May across the UK. You can find out more about how to get involved from the Alzheimer’s Society website.