When Zena’s mum received a diagnosis of dementia in January 2022, the whole family pulled together to support her. With Zena’s dad as the main carer, she and her husband Paul did their best to help.
But since Zena’s brother lives in Australia, he found it hard to know how to contribute. Being so far away meant that he couldn’t support in the usual ways that one might, by shopping, cooking, or just stopping by to spend time with Mum and give Dad a break.
Instead, he began to do a lot of research. That’s when he came across the Dementia Adventure website and decided to book onto an Understanding Dementia Better session.
“He was struggling to find that connection as to how to help,” Zena explained, “But he found the session so useful that he got in contact with us and encouraged us to join. He put everything in place that he learned from you, which really encouraged us to attend.”
So in November, Zena, her dad, and Paul all logged into one of our free online Understanding Dementia Better training sessions.
“I’ve taken on a new job and also had breast cancer so I don’t feel like I can take any more time off this year. When I saw the evening sessions, I was like, ‘That is absolutely perfect,’ because it meant that Paul and Dad could join the session as well.”
Initially, Zena felt anxious that she was about to discover she and her family had been doing everything wrong.
“It was quite the opposite,” she says. “Before we had the training, I’d actually had a couple of really emotional weeks. I was getting really upset with the situation and there had been lots of tears. Having felt down-in-the-mouth, upset, and frightened, I felt picked up after the training because I knew what I was handling a little bit more, rather than just guessing all the time.”
Apart from receiving practical advice on the best way to support her parents, Zena was relieved to finally gain an understanding of what life was like for her mum. She was also happy to find how relevant the training was to her situation, having been initially worried that it would be too generalised.
“I’ve received information about dementia before but I’ve not heard what it feels like to live with dementia — just facts and information about the condition. Because Mum has specifically got vascular dementia, I wasn’t sure that we were going to cover Mum’s particular circumstances. But by the time we came to the end of the session and everybody was chatting, I was surprised how many similarities there were across all our situations supporting someone living with dementia.”
Since the training, the family have found ways to improve life for all of them. Changing the colour of household items and putting cameras up around the house have allowed Mum to keep up her beloved habit of tidying while also staying safe, which in turn means that Dad is less frustrated.
“We felt so reassured afterwards that we could help Mum and that there are things we can do to make life better for her. We think differently about what ‘battles’ we pick and have changed our approach to the battles that we do need to pick, like last week when Mum was refusing to wear her new slippers. Before, Dad would have kept trying to persuade her himself, but this time he called me and I was able to deal with the situation and give him a break.”
Finally, Zena’s Dad has really embraced our information about the importance of connecting with nature for people living with dementia.
“Dad is now very conscious of the benefits of nature. He’s making an active effort to go on daily walks together again, and he encourages Mum to come out with him if he goes into the garden rather than just leaving her to it. It definitely has made a difference. He’ll leave the back door open and Mum will go and stand outside.
“You’ve not only helped Mum, you’ve also helped the rest of us. It has enabled us to support Dad as he in turn supports Mum, as we can say things like, ‘Do you remember what they said on the training?’ and we all have the same information and advice to work from. It really has gone all the way around the family to support Mum to live the best life possible.”
Our free, online Understanding Dementia Better sessions are informal and really practical, offering you strategies, hints, tips, and guidance. After attending, 97% of our participants have an increased understanding of how to support someone with dementia! If you or someone you know would benefit from this training, why not book today?