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Ask a dementia advisor | Danine Irwin

Danine IrwinDanine Irwin Posts: 9 Dementia Advisor

Get practical tips on managing dementia symptoms, facilitating your loved one's wellbeing and improving their cognitive, physical, social and emotional health. Post your questions below and Danine will be in touch within 72 hours with a personalised response!

We are so excited to welcome Danine to our Expert Q&A Hub!

About Danine 👋

I have extensive experience working one-to-one and in small groups with residents living with dementia in care homes in North London and Hertfordshire. I facilitate wellbeing and reminiscence workshops, using principles from Montessori methodology, sensory stimulation, reminiscence, the use of food, cookery and other exciting resources. These sessions are person-centred and promote engagement and meaningful participation. Sessions offer psycho-social benefits enhancing quality of life and living well with dementia, thus improving cognitive, physical, social and emotional health. These activities also stimulate motor and communication skills, further creativity and social interaction with others.

I am currently partway through a master’s degree in Dementia Studies with the University of Hull from which, I love to put into practice the theory that I have learnt.

As a peripatetic freelance teacher, I also have experience working with children, young people and adults with learning difficulties, running workshops in schools and for local community groups.

From my own diverse experience and significant learning I am passionate about sharing knowledge, understanding and ideas with others, to help them, especially in enhancing the wellbeing and quality of life of those living with life-limiting illness, whilst maintaining their dignity and independence.

I look forward to connecting with you.



  • Mary78Mary78 Posts: 30 ✭✭

    Hello Danine, it's lovely to have you on board. Thank you so much for being here. I was hoping to ask your advice on activities - my mother was recently diagnosed with dementia and I'm looking for something simple but fun, something we can do together to keep her engaged. She loves all arts & crafts.

  • Danine IrwinDanine Irwin Posts: 9 Dementia Advisor
    edited October 2020

    Hi @Mary78 Thank you for your enquiry; it's my pleasure to share some ideas and activities with you that you can do with your mum.

    What is important when choosing activities to do with your relative or friend living with dementia is to avoid making the activity too child like. Some art equipment and colouring books are designed for children and although you may think are suitable, can insult and patronise adults living with dementia, so always bear that in mind; instead, tap into their talents and creativity.

    It is nice to try to keep to seasonal projects, it gives you the opportunity you to chat about how nature changes as the seasons change and to look at special celebrations at a particular time of year.

    As it is autumn now, how about making some seasonal collages with crunchy autumn leaves, pine cones and conkers/acorns? You can incorporate the activity with a walk in the garden or park, to collect items that you could use.

    You could let mum arrange them as a display, or use PVA glue to stick them to strong card and make collages. You can help thread them on strings to make hanging mobiles. The textures and shapes are interesting and this type of activity promotes creativity and stimulation of motor skills. Be careful, though, that the conkers and acorns are not eaten.

    How about making a poppy/poppy garland for Remembrance Sunday? there are several templates available online that you could print off and mum could colour in, cut out and assemble. The use of bright colours helps people living with dementia visualise better. An alternative to colouring in and painting is the use of coloured tissue paper, tear little bits off, scrunch up into small balls and stick on to the template using PVA glue (again you can find a template of a poppy online, to fill in). This also encourages the use of fine motor skills and concentration.

    Another suggestion, is to do some scrap-booking with magazines - look through the magazines together and ask mum to chose her favourite things that she spots, tear the pictures out and stick them into a scrapbook. Add a title if you like. Doing an activity together encourages conversation and looking at pictures and photographs evokes memories.

    Be creative, be guided by your mum and have some enjoyable quality time together.

    All the best


  • blankazsanna5blankazsanna5 Posts: 23 ✭✭

    Hi, can I please ask youur advise on dealing with insomnia. My hubby keeps waking up at night at least 5 times. Can't remember the last time we had a good nights sleep :( Any advice would be welcome.

  • Danine IrwinDanine Irwin Posts: 9 Dementia Advisor

    Hi @betsy_9 thank you for your enquiry. Sleep is so important for the body to rest, repair and regenerate itself. I can really feel for you both, having disturbed sleep. Living with dementia can disrupt the body's sleep:wake cycle, meaning it can be harder to distinguish the difference between night and day. There are a few suggestions that could help to promote a restful night ahead:

    Firstly, plenty of meaningful stimulating activity, exposure to daylight and fresh air, during the day will encourage the brain to remain active and yearn for rest later.

    Although naps are important too, try to avoid long naps during the day and especially later in the day. As well as avoiding caffeine drinks, like tea and coffee and alcohol close to bedtime.

    Stick to routine and regular times for meals, naps and bed time.

    When it is bedtime, playing soft relaxing music may help induce sleep, as can massage and the use of lavender scent or other aromatherapy oils - although you must seek the advice of a qualified aromatherapist before use.

    Calm lighting, warmth and weighted blankets can help by providing comfort and security.

    Always seek the advice of your GP if things persist, to rule out pain as the cause of sleepless nights and also to address whether any medication used by your husband can interrupt his sleep too, perhaps consider changing the time of day they are taken may help. Do not use sleeping pills or remedies unless prescribed by a doctor.

    I wish you and your husband all the best and a restful evening.


  • Lynn ConwayLynn Conway Posts: 1

    Hi Danine. My mum has vascular dementia and her condition has deteriorated a lot in the past few months. She is also very frail.

    She has become quite obsessive about lots of things - including what she wears. She always seems to be thinking she needs to get changed - a process which totally exhausts her. She also gets very confused so ends up with things like 5 socks on one foot. She gets very tired and upset, and I’m wondering what we can do to end this particular obsession.

    Thanks, Lynn

  • Danine IrwinDanine Irwin Posts: 9 Dementia Advisor

    @Lynn Conway Hi Lynn

    Sorry to hear that your mum is getting more frail as time goes by. Vascular dementia can result in confusion however it is important that your mum maintains as much independence as possible. When it comes to dressing and clothes, it may be useful to take out an outfit each morning and lay it on her freshly-made bed, in layers - in the order that she should put the items on. If you keep the contents of her wardrobe to a minimum, just take out the items she will need for that day, that may help. Showing mum a drawerful of socks may confuse her more and her exhaustion probably comes from the frustration she feels because there are too many clothes in front of her. Reassure her that she only needs to wear the clothes that are laid out and she can change into other clothes when it is time to get ready for bed.

    Your patience and calmness will reassure her.

    I wish you all the best.

  • danWdanW Posts: 9

    Hi Danine, I hope you're well. I'd be interested to know if there's anything we can do as a family to make Christmas as enjoyable / peaceful as possible with someone who has dementia. Nan's condition has deteriorated to a great extent in the past couple of months and we're worried it'll be too much for her with all the kids and our dog around.

    Thanks, Dan W

  • Danine IrwinDanine Irwin Posts: 9 Dementia Advisor

    Hi @danW

    Thank you for your message.

    This festive poem from the Alzheimer's Society is beautiful: https://youtu.be/qzjqOK97zb4

    Christmas can be overwhelming for most people. Try to keep things well planned and stick to your routine as much as possible. Include your Nan in as much as possible and from as early as possible, from writing Christmas cards, making decorations and putting them up, to laying the table and preparing the meal.

    Decorate the house in gradual stages so her familiar setting does not suddenly become unfamiliar. You could include some decorations that create sensory attachment too, like soft festive music and Christmassy smells (lots of seasonal room sprays and spice balls are useful) and of course the flavours of Christmas too! When you have your meal, try not to overload Nan's plate though!

    Use the time together to reminisce over family photographs, movies and stories; perhaps have a box of photographs readily available to hand, by Nan's side, so she can look through.

    If Nan's memory is getting poorer, maybe make everyone a festive name badge - so you all are reminded of each others names.

    If the noise gets too much, have a designated 'quiet time' or even have a separate room where she can go and have some 'quiet time'.

    Use this family time to make new memories and take plenty of photographs, including everyone!

    Wishing you all a healthy and happy festive season.

    All the best


  • Hi Danine

    My partner’s mother has dementia and has lived with us since May. She is at the stage where she’s little or no vocabulary left, cannot seem to say whether she wants food or sleep. There are no activities we can do with her, like a simple jigsaw, colouring, sorting things, looking through old photos and she doesn’t even seem to respond to music (she used to play the flute). She looks so forlorn just sat there and we absolutely don’t know what to do to improve he quality of her life, except play some DVDs that she will sometimes raises her head to look at. She’s lost her sparkle. Is that normal? Do sufferers when the condition is advance just stare into space all day (when not sleeping).

    We get her out when we can. Looking for some ideas and reassurance I suppose.

    Thank you


  • Elaine GulerElaine Guler Posts: 1

    Hi Danine,

    My mother is in a carehome, she has Dementia and has never settled been sent away from home ,she is a victim of an estranged sister who scammed her and acquired an Lpa that isnt genuine, social services and safe guarding wont help us due to the Lpa.Same with the Advocate . We as a family want our mother home as she is Deteriorating, we love her and her wishes were NOT to be put in a carehome. She is wanted by her family at home ....

    What I want to ask is that she has very huge constant Fatique, she cat naps and doesn't stay in bed as she doesn't like to be alone, She always told us not to leave her alone, she doesnt communicate with non family members. Is the Fatique because she is sad and unsettled, ? Or the Dementia ? No-one else looks Extremely fatigued like my mam in the carehome.

    I window visit every day.


  • Danine IrwinDanine Irwin Posts: 9 Dementia Advisor

    Unfortunately I am currently unable to respond to your questions. I hope that you can find the support that you need.

    Stay safe and well everyone.


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