Dementia. A little support makes a lot of difference.

September 21, 2020

This week is Dementia Action Week, timed to include World Alzheimer’s Day on September 21. This year’s theme is ‘Dementia. A little support makes a lot of difference’.

Dementia doesn’t only affect the person diagnosed, but also their family, friends, carers and neighbours. So it’s important that we all take time to understand what dementia is, and bust some myths surrounding it.

Shutterstock 1382453225 Low Res

By understanding more, you can develop support strategies to help people living with dementia engage and maintain relationships, and begin to reduce the discrimination they experience.

According the Dementia Australia, people with dementia are:

  • More than two times more likely not to see friends,
  • More than three times as likely not to have a friend to confide in, and
  • Almost three times as likely not to have a friend to call on for help compared to the general public.

Understand more

Anyone can develop dementia. Dementia is the umbrella term for a number of neurological conditions, of which the major symptom includes a decline in brain function. The most common causes of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and Lewy Body dementia.

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing

As we age, memory changes are typical and may not necessarily be a symptom of dementia. Recent research suggests that although we go through some changes in memory as we age, this should not affect our everyday life.

We’ve all misplaced our car keys at some point in time, and this offers an excellent example of memory loss and also dementia that is extremely relatable.

Forgetfulness is misplacing your car keys by forgetting where you left them. A person with dementia may lose their car keys and also forget that they are used to open their car.

Communicate better

Communication is essential for those living with dementia to maintain their identity, so it is vital to stay connected with your loved one, should they be diagnosed with dementia. Language skills and vocabulary can diminish as dementia progresses, but the desire to communicate does not.

Communication isn’t restricted to your voice either. Body language and touch are also important.


Often a person with dementia will not remember a recent occasion, or a person’s face, or may not understand what a person is saying.

They will remember the feeling and emotions associated with an occasion or person. So, it is important that you work towards a positive, dignified and comfortable interaction with them. You may choose to use gentle touch to gain or keep the person’s attention.

Gentle touch, as long as it is appropriate, is a lovely way to communicate feelings of love, worth and affection.


When speaking, use a gentle tone of voice and keep sentences short and to the point. Avoid asking open-ended questions.

For example, ask “Did you enjoy your lunch?” instead of “What was for lunch? Did you like it?” as this can become confusing. Give the person plenty of time to think about what you have said or asked, and to form their response, 38% of communication is the tone and pitch of your voice, and only 7% is the words we use.

Body Language

The remaining 55% of communication is body language, so it is important to be mindful of this and to keep your body language open and non-threatening. Avoid crossing your arms or standing above the person as this can feel like domination.

Instead, you may choose to sit or kneel to their eye level, smile, hold their hand if they feel comfortable with it, and use it to communicate, e.g. waving while saying hello.

Mayflower’s person-centred care model recognises the individual needs of people who present with various forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. We endeavour to involve these residents in meaningful everyday activities that stimulate as well as having a calming effect if required.

To find out more about dementia including how to take action visit the Dementia Australia website. Or call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.