Helping people with dementia stay living at home

This blog written by Pamela Holmes, practice development manager at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, was originally published on the Care & Dementia Show website.

Most people say they would want to live at home for as long as possible if diagnosed with dementia.  And that’s mostly what happens. Two thirds of people with dementia live in the community, often with additional support from family, friends and professional carers. Help with finances, shopping or personal care may make all the difference. But what are the other ways to help people with dementia to remain living at home for as long as possible? And how can the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) help?

Research suggests a third of the general public wouldn't know where to find information about how to make their home suitable. Yet one simple but effective set of improvements can be simple home adaptations such as better lighting or signs identifying the toilet or kitchen. And technological support can be life-changing. SCIE’s Roundtable Report, How technology can support the aims of the Care Act,  sets out some of the ways this can happen; from increasing social engagement through the use of tablets, apps and social networks, through to monitoring, sensor alarms and smarter home design to improve safety and personal care.  

Families and professional carers need access to information and advice about dementia. SCIE’s dementia web resource offers content on a range of topics such as communication, nutrition, sensory loss and activities. As well as information, the site features a popular e-learning programme and over a dozen videos which bring to life the personal impact of dementia on people and their families. For example, Dementia from the Inside (with over 20,700 views) gives a sense of what it’s like to have dementia, based on the feedback of people with dementia who advised on the production. 

But it’s not only what happens between the four walls of people’s homes that’s important. We need dementia-friendly communities that are supportive and enabling; like Manchester’s Dementia United, which sees businesses and organisations being keyed into the needs of people with dementia. It’s also important to have accessible buildings and transport systems, along with dementia cafes and pubs. SCIE’s Prevention resource provides examples of good practice and the latest research on preventative approaches and the promotion of well-being. With a focus on maintaining independence and quality of life, this can help to avoid the sort of crisis which often precipitates admission to a care home for someone with dementia. 

SCIE was involved in the development of the NICE quality standard for supporting people to live well with dementia. If people are supported to make choices and decisions about their care and support, to take part in leisure activities, to meet with friends and family and to develop new relationships, they can live well with dementia at home. This was included in the former Prime Minister’s 2020 dementia challenge with it’s “I statements” for people with dementia. For instance, one says: ‘I live in an enabling and supportive environment where I feel valued and understood’. If we work together with families and carers, we can enable people with dementia to remain at home.

See also a list of resources on helping people with dementia.