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James' story: Five products that made our journey a little easier

James Ashwell and Mum webWhen James Ashwell realised the extent of his mum’s dementia, he and his brother moved back home and promised her she wouldn’t have to go through it alone. Keeping this promise as his mum declined steadily over the next five years is the hardest thing James has ever done. Read his story here »

As he found ways to cope with the stress and sleeplessness and enjoy moments of happiness and hilarity, James found a passion he never knew he possessed: to discover great products to help other people affected by dementia to cope better and know they are not alone.

The products listed below are ones that James found particularly useful, or wish he’d had. We recommend looking at a wide range of products to find ones that suit your needs best.

 Five products that made our journey a little easier:

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DIY games and jigsaws

My brother Mark got so fed up watching Mum doing children’s jigsaws that he made some for her himself using family photos, a laminator and some Velcro. It worked brilliantly and had the added bonus of helping Mum remember the people in her family.

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Cut-resistant gloves

When we were advised that Mum should not continue to cook we came up with the idea of using tough cutresistant gloves to allow her to prepare and cook food safely. I couldn’t find anything suitable in the shops, but knew these sorts of gloves were used in poultry plants. I called up the managing director of a chicken factory and told him our story. He kindly sent us several pairs for free.

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A bedtime monitor

Mum used to get up in the night, making it very hard for us to sleep as we were always listening out for her. A family friend suggested we try a bedtime monitor, which ended up being a real life saver. Knowing we could be with Mum in seconds if she needed us in the night meant we could all sleep better. 

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A big clock

One of the first things we bought to help Mum was a large digital clock.

Mum started to miss appointments because she was confusing days, dates and times. Dementia clocks hadn’t been invented but this one did help and it responded to radio signals and changed time automatically when the clocks changed so Mum always knew the correct time.

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When I was at work, or away from home with friends, I would really worry how Mum was doing and couldn’t really relax and enjoy myself. Sophisticated home monitoring systems weren’t easily available a few years ago (they are now), but I did manage to rig up my own CCTV camera.

Five products I wish I’d had

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Bedi shield

Helping mum to brush her teeth was a real challenge. Poor hygiene meant discomfort and more trips to the dentist, causing huge distress and sometimes even leading to general anaesthetic. This simple finger shield allows you to keep the mouth open while you brush the teeth – it would have made the whole experience far less traumatic.

Unforgettable products8Sensory activities

Multi-sensory dough is a powerful way to evoke memories, and sensory bags containing smelly sticks, shells, feathers and other textures are great for stimulating the senses. Other products are designed to provide comfort in repetitive stimulation. Mum would have enjoyed using all these and they would have made great gifts.

Unforgettable products10Tena U-Test

Despite our best efforts, a couple of times a year Mum would develop a urinary tract infection (UTI). It would make her extremely delusional.

The Tena U-Test is a pad that you stick onto incontinence pads and is able to detect a UTI and provide results in 15 minutes. This would have enabled us to get the UTI treated more quickly without having to visit the GP.


Unforgettable products9GPS insoles

People with dementia often feel the urge to walk about and in some cases leave their home. This is a huge source of worry and distress for many carers. As a society we urgently need a real, open debate about the ethics of using tracking devices, such as these insoles, which could have given Mum more independence and me more peace of mind.

Unforgettable productsEasy dress clothing

Mum would try to undress herself by pulling open her blouse, popping all of the buttons off. Specially adapted clothes and underwear, with discreet modification such as Velcro fastening or magnetic buttons, front-closing bras and self-tying shoelaces, can make a real difference. Mum had to wear a bib whilst eating but kept pulling it off as it wasn’t very dignified! This pashmina bib is stylish and discreet but still fulfils the functions of a bib.

  • James went on to found Unforgettable in 2015, bringing together specialised products, practical advice and a supportive community to help those affected by memory loss and dementia.
  • Carers UK is delighted to have come on board as a charitable partner of Unforgettable. For more information about our partnership and its terms, click here

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