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Fighting dementia with familiarity
Sticking with a familiar routine and environment can help your friend or relative engage with the things they love for longer.
A regular routine can give them a sense of comfort and control that can – when supported by a live-in carer – promote a higher level of independence and activity.
Here, we’ll look at what familiarity means for people with dementia, and how it can make a meaningful difference to their lives.
What is ‘familiarity’ in the care context?
Familiarity in the care context means possessing sufficient experience with a place or process to enable it to be transferred into a person’s long-term memory bank.
A person with dementia will find it harder to establish such familiarity with new things, or things that change in their lives, and this can therefore cause them to become anxious and confused.
Here’s a brief overview of familiar features that typically form part of a person’s life:
‘Home’ is more than just a property. Our conceptions of home include psychological, social, and cultural connotations that build up over time.
This notion therefore includes long-term associations linked to your:
- House and garden
- Family, friends and pets
- Local community
A person’s regular routine plays an equally significant role, and should be maintained throughout the care process. This might include carrying out the following activities in a specific and regular way:
- Meal times
- Social activities
- Bathing/personal grooming
- Leisure activities (such as reading the paper or walking in the park)
How can familiarity improve quality of life?
Dementia limits the storage of new information whilst long-term memories from the past remain accessible. This can make it difficult to interpret new actions or environments, and therefore limits people’s ability to plan and complete activities in an unfamiliar way.
Actions that form part of a routine that’s stored in their long-term memory can act as a recognisable touchstone, helping to rationalise the world around them and enabling them to continue to function using older memories to give a context for the here and now.
The activities included within this routine are a link to life before the person developed dementia, and they are likely to recall some semblance of how and when such activities should be conducted. Carrying out activities in a familiar way therefore enables people to play a more active role in their daily lives.
A familiar routine has been found to improve social and functional abilities in people with dementia, as well as offering greater comfort and easing the thought process, which in turn reduces agitation.
This is evident in a process known as ‘transfer trauma’, which can affect people with dementia when they’re admitted to hospital or put into residential care unexpectedly. Transfer trauma can cause feelings of dissonance, discomfort and confusion, and is the reason that many older people request to ‘go home’ even after spending years in residential care.
How does live-in care promote familiarity?
With live-in care, your friend or relative can keep doing everything they love while staying in their own home, surrounded by their possessions and a familiar community.
Each of our live-in care clients are allocated a dedicated team of two carers, who provide specialist support around the clock. This focused approach enables our carers to learn your loved one’s routine inside-out, and to become a familiar, reassuring feature in their lives.
Our live-in carers are trained to specialise in the management of specific conditions, such as dementia, and will support them in staying independent in their own homes for as long as possible.
Find out more about how our specialist dementia care services could help support your loved one.