Getting to know what the person with dementia’s life was like before they were diagnosed with the condition can provide valuable insights and pointers towards their wishes, preferences, needs, behaviour and how best to connect with them. Certain times and events in the individual’s life may elicit strong emotions; happy experiences can be built upon whilst those which prompt unhappiness, anger or distress can be avoided. The personal history of someone with dementia can also reveal their favourite interests, hobbies and activities and any particular skills they may have which they may be encouraged to retain.
Clearly, the maintenance of physical health and the control of other ailments is of fundamental importance when creating a dementia care plan. Aspects that should be considered in particular are those of pain management, continence, mobility and exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet and adequate hydration.
Although memory loss is a typical symptom of dementia, every diagnosis is different and memory and cognitive function will be affected according to the type of dementia, the degree to which it has progressed and the particular area(s) of the brain that have been affected. In addition to loss of memory, dementia may affect sight, speech, hearing, the use and understanding of language, judgement, problem solving, recognition, and muscle control. Incorporating an ongoing process of assessment of memory and cognitive abilities when creating a dementia care plan will enable the carer to adapt and tailor the level of care given in accordance with the changing needs and abilities of the person with dementia.
Our personality defines the way in which we approach and interpret life and the way in which others view and understand us. Getting to know, in depth, the personality of a person with dementia, looking both at the person they were before diagnosis and the person they are now, helps a carer to be ‘on the same wavelength’ and more attuned to the changing needs, attitudes, moods and behaviours of the individual.
Personality also plays a key role in the way in which a person with dementia responds to and copes with their condition; some may be extrovert and tackle it head on whilst others may be introspective and require heightened emotional support and reassurance. Knowing the personality of a person with dementia better enables the carer to build a tailored and effective care plan around the individual.
A dementia care plan must take into account the living environment of the person with dementia as this is vital to ensuring their continued independence, personal safety and security. Not only is this element about minimising or eliminating physical barriers and health and safety risks but also evaluating how everyday surroundings and stimuli affect the moods and behaviour of the person with dementia, and how improvements may be made, if necessary.