Thursday, 20 February 2014

Simple low and hi-tech solutions to help care for someone with dementia at home...

...and indeed, many other conditions

Below are examples of the many solutions now available to help monitor the health of someone you may be caring for. It should be noted, that whilst these devices and solutions can be used as a means of monitoring and treatment, they should not be used to replace professional advice and treatment – if in doubt, always contact a medical professional.

Blood Pressure Monitors

There are many of these now available, including some that will keep a record of blood pressure readings. The two main types are the traditional upper arm cuff, and the wrist monitors. For self-monitoring, the wrist monitor is easier to use, but these tend not to be quite as accurate as the arm cuff types.

If you are monitoring someone else’s blood pressure, then the arm cuff monitors are generally better, as the pulse can be checked at the same time, enabling the user to confirm the Systolic reading on the monitor. Just check the reading at the time the pulse returns, as the cuff slowly deflates.

Normal blood pressure should be within the range of 120/80mmHg.

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) gives the following:
•119/79 or lower is normal blood pressure
•140/90 or higher is high blood pressure
•Between 120 and 139 for the top number, or between 80 and 89 for the bottom number is called prehypertension.

Prehypertension means you may end up with high blood pressure, unless you take steps to prevent it.

Note: If in doubt, always contact a medical professional.

Blood Glucose Monitors

These are essential if your caree suffers from any type of diabetes, and if this is the case, the expensive test strips are often available on prescription in the UK.

Blood Glucose Monitors are usually inexpensive to buy, as the manufacturers make their profits from the sale of the more expensive test strips.

The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) general guidelines for Blood Glucose Levels are as follows – (US equivalent in parentheses):

Children with Type 1 diabetes
•Before meals: 4–8mmol/l (72-144 mg/dl)
•Two hours after meals: less than 10mmol/l (180 mg/dl)

Adults with Type 1 diabetes
•Before meals: 4–7mmol/l (72-126 mg/dl)
•Two hours after meals: less than 9mmol/l  (162 mg/dl)

Adults with Type 2 diabetes
•Before meals: 4–7mmol/l (72-126 mg/dl)
•Two hours after meals: less than 8.5mmol/l (153 mg/dl)

Note: If in doubt, always contact a medical professional.

Digital Thermometers

There are generally two main types of digital thermometer available, Oral and In-Ear.

In-Ear Digital Thermometers now widely available, and whilst accuracy with some is not as good as it could be, they generally give a good indication if your caree has a fever or high temperature.

The more traditional Oral Digital Thermometer is also widely available, and can be used as a back-up to In-Ear thermometers, if you have any doubt about the accuracy of the readings given by the latter.

The NHS states that a normal temperature is around 37C (98.6F), although it depends on:

The person
Their age
What they've been doing
The time of day
Which part of the body you take the temperature from

It is generally accepted that normal body temperature ranges between 36.1C (97F) to 37.2C (99F).

Note: If in doubt, always contact a medical professional.

Pulse Oximeters

Pulse Oximeters are now widely available, and can be purchased for around £25.

Pulse oximetry is a simple, relatively cheap and non-invasive technique to monitor oxygenation. It monitors the percentage of haemoglobin that is oxygen-saturated. Oxygen saturation should always be above 95%, although in those with long standing respiratory disease or cyanotic congenital heart disease, it may be lower, corresponding to disease severity.

You can find more information here

Note: If in doubt, always contact a medical professional.

Urine Test Strips

Urine Test Strips can be purchased either from your Chemist or on-line. Their at-home use, especially for someone living with dementia, is to help in the identification of recurring Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).

A urine test strip or dipstick is a basic diagnostic tool used to determine pathological changes in a patient’s urine in standard urinalysis.

A standard urine test strip may comprise up to 10 different chemical pads or reagents which react (change colour) when immersed in, and then removed from, a urine sample. The test can often be read in as little as 60 to 120 seconds after dipping, although certain tests require longer. Routine testing of the urine with multiparameter strips is the first step in the diagnosis of a wide range of diseases. The analysis includes testing for the presence of proteins, glucose, ketones, haemoglobin, bilirubin, urobilinogen, acetone, nitrite and leucocytes as well as testing of pH and specific gravity or to test for infection by different pathogens.

You can find more information here

Note: If in doubt, always contact a medical professional.

First Aid Kit

Many different First Aid Kits are available commercially, but there are a number of items that should be considered as essential, and therefore should be included in your own First Aid Kit, and replenished as required.

The Essentials

Waterproof Plasters (Band Aid, Elastoplast)
Quantity: selection of different sizes
Use: for most minor wounds

Sterile Eyepads
Quantity: 2
Use: for minor eye injuries

Crepe Bandage
Quantity: 1
Use: for a sprain or strain

Triangular Bandages (Sling)
Quantity: 4
Use: to lift a limb

Medium Sterile Dressing Pads
Quantity: 6
Use: when a plaster is too small

Large Sterile Dressing Pads
Quantity: 2
Use: for dressing large wounds

Sterile Gloves (Vinyl)
Quantity: 1 pair
Use: to protect the casualty and first aider

Tough Cut Scissors
Quantity: 1 pair
Use: to safely cut clothing off

Alcohol-Free Wipes
Quantity: 6
Use: to clean grazes if water is not available

Safety Pins
Quantity: 6
Use: to secure a bandage or sling

Household items suitable for First Aid use

Also remember, a number of household products can be used, especially for covering burns. Cling Film (Plastic Wrap, Cling Wrap, Food Wrap), and transparent freezer bags, can be used to cover burns, to help keep out infection, a cooling gel can then be placed on top help relieve pain. There is more information here

Take a First Aid Course

Why is it important to learn first aid?

Research from the British Red Cross shows that you are most likely to use your first aid skills on a relative or a friend.  Wouldn’t you want to help a friend who was choking, or help a relative who had burned themselves? It’s quick and easy to learn and having first aid skills can make a real difference.
How do you find a way to learn first aid?

You can learn online at If you’re a new parent, visit, which focuses on first aid for babies and children.

To find your nearest course go to the British Red Cross website at or call 0844 871 8000.




New Zealand

Republic of Ireland

South Africa

All other countries
A list of countries belonging to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement can be found on Wikipedia

Keeping records

It can often help to keep records about the health and wellbeing of your caree, and there are a number of ways of doing this. There are apps available for iPad, Android and Windows, which deserve a separate blog post, so I will cover these at a later date.

However, a simple low-tech method is to create a file to contain readily available forms, downloadable from the internet. Just download them, print them out, and use them to record handwritten notes about your caree.  315 such charts and forms are available free, here

Reminders, quick notes and appointments

Again, there are plenty of apps that can help (to be reviewed at a later date), but it is often quicker just to write them down. For this, I find a simple dry-wipe white board indispensable. A magnetic one is better still, as important documents, needed for an appointment for example, can be placed on the board, and kept handy for when they are needed.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Mum, dementia, and doll therapy – seven months on...

In July 2013, I bought Mum a baby doll, a pretty realistic looking one at that. Not long after buying the doll - available with a variety of different faces - I came to realise why I had chosen this particular one.

After sorting through a lot of old family photographs, I came across one of me as a baby. The doll Mum has, called Charlie, is very similar in appearance to the photo of me! Clearly some kind of subconscious recognition going on there, and probably one of the reasons why Mum loves it so much!

Me (left of course) and Charlie (right)

Seven months down the road of experimenting, this particular doll has proven to be a complete success. Mum loves Charlie (my late Dad’s name, not mine), she talks to him, and kisses and cuddles him. Occasionally, she even tries to feed him. To say she is incredibly protective of him, would be a major understatement.

She talks to him, and tells him how good he is. If Mum gets upset or agitated, Charlie is there to help calm her, and indeed to help distract her from whatever is causing her distress.

When people visit, they are also amazed by the positive effects Charlie has had on Mum.

Whilst doll therapy doesn’t work with all of those living with dementia, when it does - as in this case - it is clearly very beneficial.

Dolls, seem to bring out the genetically acquired nurturing instinct, more especially in women, but not necessarily so, as they have been found to work with men as well. Many of us have a inbuilt protective instinct which appears when we sense vulnerability.

For Mum, seven months on, doll therapy, using this particular doll, definitely seems to be working.
From my own experience, I would definitely say “give it a go!” As I’ve already said, doll therapy is not suitable for everyone, but, when it does work, it seems to work very well indeed.

Charlie on Mum's bed

The doll used is from the Berenguer range