Jodi Harris, manager of Oakwood Grange care home in Royston, cares for people with dementia every day.
So she knows how best to support those with the condition, and has provided a number of ways in which people can support their relatives - including using items from the past to stimulate positive emotions.
“It can be a huge strain on relatives looking after someone living with dementia but there are simple steps which could help the person be less confused and anxious,” said Jodi.
“Dementia affects people’s short-term memory but their long-term memory can remain unaffected.
“So while the person might find the here and now confusing, looking at artefacts and photos from their past can help initiate conversation and help them express their emotions.
“So having a reminiscence box of old photos of family holidays and get-togethers, CDs of their favourite songs and favourite films, or items associated with a hobby will help stimulate them and make them feel happier.
“It might be they won’t remember a conversation created by this reminiscence box but the positive emotions this creates will remain with them.”
She added that continuing any activity which the person enjoyed before diagnosis, such as going for walks or playing an instrument, would raise their spirits.
According to research by care provider Anchor, which manages Oakwood Grange, using colour to distinguish different items a person will come across every day can make a huge difference.
Jodi said: “Anchor’s research has found that doors and hand rails painted a distinctly different colour to the walls, for example, helps residents distinguish between them, which makes walking round their home less confusing and hazardous.
“I would suggest using crockery which contrasts with the table cloths so that someone with dementia can easily see where the edge of the plate is. Cooking meals using different coloured ingredients stimulates appetite. Avoid placing similar coloured foods next to each other on the plate - this can help people recognise the different food items, making mealtimes a more enjoyable experience.
“We pride ourselves on the care we provide in our home, which is rated good by regulator the Care Quality Commission, so I wanted to use Dementia Action Week to share our knowledge and help relatives looking after people with the condition.
“Looking after older people is a rewarding career so I would recommend it to anyone wanting to make a difference to the lives of the most vulnerable in our community.”
Oakwood Grange, in Oakwood Road, Royston, is a residential home that cares for 60 people.
The home was rated as ‘good’ by healthcare regulator the Care Quality Commission earlier this month.
To mark Dementia Action Week, Anchor has also published a guide to supporting loved ones with dementia on its website.