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How to be a good… Dementia Carer

Hayley Simmonds, Care Worker, Barchester

As a child I dreamed of becoming   a nurse, my pride and joy being a nurse play costume with accompanying plastic stethoscope.  

I am so glad that I chose to follow my dream, as my career has been anything but boring, and so diverse. No two days are ever the same, and I always feel I am learning new skills, and knowledge.

My interest in dementia care came early on in my career whilst working on a busy orthopaedic ward. I noted that more and more individuals were being admitted with some form of dementia. This was only eighteen years ago, yet dementia training at the time was very basic.  Sadly during this time, dementia care was not to the high standard that it is today, and I knew I wanted to help to make a difference in dementia care.

There are many different types of dementia, each one effecting different parts of the brain.  It is predicted that one in three of us will end up living with dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, however you can have two individuals with the same diagnosis who display their dementia completely differently.

Some symptoms of dementia include memory and communication problems, weight loss, reduced mobility, increased  anxiety, and distress. As a good dementia carer it is important to assist in helping to alleviate some of the symptoms in order of increasing a person’s well-being, and enhancing their quality of life.

I have worked with my current employer for the past six years , and it is during this time that I really feel that I have helped contribute to a high standard of dementia care. My current employer delivers excellent dementia training to all its employees. With a specialised memory lane, communities are purpose built to be dementia friendly with themed corridors. They also implement a unique researched approach to dementia care that helps reduce and alleviate some of the symptoms associated with dementia.

My motto in life, and throughout my career, is to treat others as I would expect myself and loved ones to be treated.

Person centred approach is vital within any care, but especially dementia care. It is important that you see the individual and look past their dementia. The person living with dementia are still an individual who has memories, life experiences and feelings; someone’s mother, or father,  daughter or son, sister or brother.   If I had to give one vital tip when working within dementia care it would be to obtain as much personal history about the individual you are caring for as you can, in order of having common grounds of interest to discuss, it also assists in gaining the individuals trust.

Anxiety, distress, and depression can often be associated with dementia. When experiencing such episodes with a resident I always try to put myself in that person’s situation and try and look at what is causing the distress, anxiety, or depression so that appropriate action can be taken.  Assessment tools such as the Painad pain assessment tool, and Cornell scale of depression can also be vital tools to use to highlight such symptoms.

It is important to live in the moment of the person living with dementia rather than trying to get them to live in the moment. Therefore, if a 90 year old thinks they are a twenty year old then live in that moment with them. If a person living with dementia is looking for their husband that passed away 5 years ago, offer appropriate reassurance at the time.

A sense of purpose is essential to anyone experiencing dementia.  Whether this be in the form of activities such as singing, pet therapy, armchair Zumba, or meaningful tasks such as laying tables, dusting and folding washing.

Memory books, and boxes, music therapy, and reminiscing can all assist in provoking memories, that may help reduce distress, and anxiety.

To be a good dementia carer I believe you must have the following attributes:

  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Calm and caring nature
  • Be a good listener

I feel truly honoured and proud to work within dementia care, it does not come without it’s challenges, and is most definitely a team effort but I feel blessed to help care for such amazing individuals, in such a rewarding job.

One day it might be one of us requiring dementia acre.





Edel Harris





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