Living with cancer and dementia

It is important for someone with cancer and dementia to look after their general health as much as possible. This can help prevent some problems in the future.

Looking after everyday health

It is important for someone with cancer and dementia to look after their general health as much as possible. This can help prevent some problems in the future and may give them back a feeling of control. If you are caring for someone with dementia, you might find the following tips useful:

  • Help them to take medications as prescribed. You can ask the pharmacist to put their medicines in a pill organiser (dosette box). Pills are placed in individual boxes marked with the time and day of when to take them.
  • Encourage them to have regular check-ups with their GP or practice nurse. If they feel unwell, try to get them to see the GP promptly.
  • Help them keep up to date with hearing, eye and dental checks to identify any problems early. You and the person you care for may also be able to have the annual flu jab.



Eating well and keeping to a healthy weight

It is important for someone with cancer and dementia to try to eat well and maintain a healthy weight. We have some tips on managing eating problems in someone with cancer and dementia and some general information about healthy eating.

Keeping active

Being physically active can help improve symptoms such as tiredness, poor appetite and constipation. Activity may also reduce stress and improve sleep.

If you are supporting a person who has dementia, you could encourage them to start slowly and gradually build up the amount they do. To begin with, try to reduce the amount of time they spend sitting or lying down. Just moving around the house and doing simple day to day things will help.

If they can manage short walks or gentle stretching exercises, you could help them do this. Ask their GP or nurse if there are any exercise classes in the local area. Also ask if there are any physical activities that they should avoid.

Age UK has a leaflet called Strength and balance exercises for healthy ageing, which you might find helpful.

Alcohol and tobacco

People with dementia can become more confused after drinking alcohol. It is important that they limit how much they drink. They may need help remembering how much they have had.

It is not advisable to drink alcohol with some medicines. Check with the GP or pharmacist whether it is safe for the person you care for to have alcohol.

Giving up smoking is the single most important thing someone can do for their health. Smoking can increase the risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis), some cancers and heart disease.

Memory problems

Memory problems caused by dementia can be different for each person. They may include things like forgetting dates, appointments or names, or getting lost in familiar places. Some people may continually lose everyday objects, such as keys or mobile phones, around the house.

Memory problems can be worrying and frustrating. But there are things that can to help if you care for someone with dementia:

  • Keep to routines and help them to only do one thing at a time.
  • Get them to make lists and tick off completed tasks.
  • Encourage them to complete everyday tasks in a calm, quiet environment with no distractions.
  • Break information into small chunks to make it easier to remember.
  • If it helps, write the information down for them.

Alzheimer’s Society has a book called The memory handbook: A practical guide to living with memory problems that you may find helpful.

Assistive technology for memory problems

Assistive technology can help the person you care for to stay independent and improve safety in their home. These may be aids such as:

  • clocks, calendars or phones that have numbers set into them
  • safety devices to switch off gas supplies or taps if they are left on.

You can order assistive technology from organisations such as AT Dementia and Live better with dementia.