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May 2022

10 top tips for dignified mealtimes for someone living with dementia

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10 top tips for dignified mealtimes for someone living with dementia

 Oomph Wellness in partnership with Kate Thubron,

Mindful Care Consultancy

  1. Set the scene

Dining rooms should be inviting, welcoming and have a family feel. The environment should provide sensory cues that it is time for a meal.

  1. Beware of the tableware and crockery

Use plain tablecloths, placements, and crockery. Patterned tableware can cause confusion and visual disturbances. Additionally, ensure that the plate and tablecloth are different tonal colours with the food also a different colour to the plate. E.g. white mashed potato on a white plate may be difficult to be seen.

  1. Advanced decisions

Avoid asking the person what they would like in advance – e.g in the morning after their breakfast! People with dementia experience difficulty with their short-term memory and will often struggle to remember what they requested. Allow the person to choose the food they want to eat at the time they will be eating it.

  1. Visual choices

Provide visual choices at mealtimes. This may be in the form of a visual menu or showing plated up meals to allow the person to use all their senses to decide what they would like to eat.

  1. Presentation of meals

Present the food in a nice manner, including pureed meals. Ask yourself whether you would be happy to receive and eat the meals provided.

  1. Protective clothing

Always give choice on whether someone would like to wear protective clothing for mealtimes and make sure these are dignified and not childlike. E.g dining scarfs.

  1. Finger foods

For those that find it hard to eat a full meal, finger foods may be more beneficial.

  1. Family mealtimes

Sit, eat and engage with residents at mealtimes as a family. Do not stand at the side and watch.

  1. Opportunities for independence

Provide opportunities for independence. This could be serving vegetables from a self-serving bowl on the table, using adapted cutlery or putting sugar in their tea with assistance.

  1. Hand under Hand

Become aware of Teepa Snows Hand under Hand technique to help those needing assistance with mealtimes.

For more information about Wellbeing Training and Oomph On Demand please contact Oomph here.

10 top tips for better communication with a person living with dementia

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10 top tips for better communication with a person living with dementia

Oomph Wellness in partnership with Kate Thubron,

Mindful Care Consultancy

  1. Positive approach

Before you speak, make sure the person can see you approaching and are in eye view without blocking their personal space.

  1. Feeling heard

Address them by their name and provide your full attention, ensuring that the person feels heard.

  1. Speak clearly avoiding lots of questions

Speak slowly and clearly in short sentences. Avoid open ended questions or offering too many choices

  1. Listen well

listen carefully with empathy and understanding.

  1. Respectful language

Never use childlike language to the person.  Remember and be respectful of their past and experiences

  1. Meaning behind the words

Avoid criticizing, correcting, or arguing – Look for the meaning and feelings behind the words

  1. Give time

Allow time for a response. It may take a little longer to think about the message and respond.

  1. Awareness of nonverbal communication

Be aware of your nonverbal communication and body language. Provide visual cues to help deliver your message.

  1. Diminish Distractions

Be aware of background noises and reduce this as much as you can

  1. Positivity

Be positive, sensitive, and encouraging

For more information about Wellbeing Training and Oomph On Demand please contact Oomph here.

10 top tips to help a person living with dementia in distress

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10 top tips to help a person living with dementia in distress

Oomph Wellness in partnership with Kate Thubron,

Mindful Care Consultancy

  1. Know the person

Find out about the person’s life history. This may help in understanding what might cause moments of distress and ways that you can help them.

  1. Knowledge of the brain

Gain further knowledge and understanding on the functions of the brain and how damage in certain areas may affect behaviour. This will help in understanding why someone may be feeling distressed but also ways to help.

  1. Remain calm

Try to remain calm. The person might say something upsetting to you when they are distressed. Take 5 to 10 seconds and think about what you’re going to say before you reply

  1. Mind your tone

Use a soothing and steady tone of voice

  1. Look for any unmet needs

Look for any signs that they have a need that is not being fulfilled. For example, are they in pain?, Need something to eat? Need comfort or reassurance?

  1. Provide validation

Reassure them that you are listening to them and that you are there to try and help

  1. Be aware of the environment

Observe anything in the environment that could be causing any further distress. Minimise distractions.

  1. Provide opportunities for meaningful engagement

Provide opportunities for the person to engage in an activity that is meaningful and enjoyable. After validating and listening to their feelings a shift in focus may help calm the person down.

  1. Avoid labelling

Using words or phrases that label, stigmatise and depersonalise people can have a big impact on someone. It can change the way they feel about themselves, their feelings and self-esteem. Labelling can also cause the way they are treated. For example, if someone is labelled ‘aggressive’ it may cause approaches to care to be unintentionally confrontational.

  1. Gain support

Sometimes asking for help can provide a fresh and new perspective on what may be causing distress and how to help.  Do not be offended if a person prefers to be cared for by someone else in that moment in time.

For more information about Wellbeing Training and Oomph On Demand please contact Oomph here.

Is a cup of tea always the answer?

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Is a cup of tea always the answer?

Authored by Kate Thubron – Mindful care consultancy in Partnership with Oomph Wellness.

In support of Dementia Awareness Week, it is said that a cup of tea can solve everything, whether you’re a fan of an Earl grey, green or classic breakfast tea.

A cup of tea can indeed make you feel better, but is this always the answer for someone living with dementia who may be experiencing some form of distress?

Imagine you wake up not recognising the place you are in. You look for your partner or some form of clue to where you are and why you are there. However, your surroundings are unfamiliar and there is no-one around that you know. People are around and they look like they should be able to help. They are wearing uniforms and smiling. You try to ask for help, but you cannot express the words as you would like. They come out jumbled. They continue to smile, but your frustration grows because you need to know where you are, and no-one seems to be listening to you. You just want to go home! However, you are led to the dining room with other people you do not recognise and given a cup of tea.

As care partners it is vital that we reflect on how we would like to be treated in that situation. Stop and ask yourself:

– How would you feel in this situation?

– How would you feel and react if you did not feel listened to?

– Would shouting or crying be a valid human reaction in this situation?

– Would the cup of tea help you?

– What actions would help you?

The chances are, that the cup of tea would not help you recognize the people or place, nor would it help you feel safe and familiar in your surroundings. Therefore, this reaction of shouting or crying results from an unmet need.

The word ‘unmet’ is essentially saying a need has not been addressed. As care partners, we can start to address a person’s unmet need simply by acknowledging the persons feelings. All human beings have needs and when they are unmet, this can cause upset or distress, but we develop the ability to express these needs to help us address them.

Knowing that this is likely a reaction to something that is not right, we can start to ensure that we acknowledge the persons feelings and help appropriately. These needs could include warmth, comfort, food, love or company. People with brain changes or damage still have these needs. However, it may be more difficult to express these needs easily in a way we understand. As care partners, it is therefore vital that we look for alternative ways a person may be trying to communicate with us.

Teepa Snow identifies three areas of unmet wants and needs to look out for:

Unmet physical needs

Hunger and thirst

Tired and/or overstimulated

Bowel or urinary distress

Discomfort

Pain

Unmet emotional needs

Anger

Sadness

Loneliness

Fear

Boredom

Unmet psycho-social needs

Comfort

Compassion

Occupational

Attachment

Identity

Inclusion

If distressed behaviours, such as shouting or crying, are a form of communication, we need to consider the language we use for them. Labelling these behaviours as ‘aggressive’ or ‘challenging’ demonstrates we are not acknowledging or addressing the unmet need. Instead, it places an emphasis on how the care partner is feeling about the situation. This will not lead to the person’s unmet need being met and will likely increase in distress.

Teepa Snow asks us to, ‘Be a detective and not a judge’.

Acknowledge the distress, investigate the unmet need from the lists above and take action to help provide what is needed. Don’t expect a cup of tea to solve all physical, emotional or psychosocial unmet needs. It just won’t! However, once that need is met, a cup of tea may well be enjoyed in the way intended!

For more information about Wellbeing Training and Oomph On Demand please contact Oomph here.