Caring for someone with dementia is a time-consuming and exhausting journey. Tips for managing dementia are emerging as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t for people with this disease.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Tips for Caring for a Person WIth Dementia at Home
- Tips for Combating Frustration and Stress While Caring for a Person With Dementia
- Tips for Caregivers of an Aggressive Person With Dementia
The challenge of dementia is that it manifests in different ways for each individual. Your loved one may have a very different experience than someone else you know. The disease trajectory is also variable, making it difficult to predict decline and learning how to prepare.
As you go through our essential caregiving tips for people with dementia, accept that much of what you try will be trial and error. And just when you find something that works, it changes later! Try to be flexible and adjust to the changing moods, needs, and safety concerns of your loved one. Essential caregiving tips can help you get a handle on things early in the process.
Tips for Caring for a Person WIth Dementia at Home
When a family member with dementia is cared for at home, you might feel that you are always playing catch-up. However, we have some tips to help keep you grounded and your loved one safe.
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1. Home safety evaluation
People with dementia can get into all sorts of trouble, and your focus should be on safety. Along with everything else you have to worry about, safety features should not be one of them. By doing a home safety evaluation, you can anticipate areas that might cause problems later. Start by contacting an occupational therapist who can make accessibility and safety recommendations.
- Ensure that the stove is not a concern by turning it off when you aren’t using it or installing an automatic shut-off switch.
- If your loved one wanders, put a wander guard on the door or keep the door locked in a way that someone can’t get out, such as a keyed deadbolt. Make sure that windows are locked.
- If your loved one will keep it on, consider an emergency response system to alert you if they fall.
- Remove all firearms, matches, and knives or place somewhere remote and inaccessible.
- Improve lighting throughout the house, especially to the bathroom at night.
- Lock medications in a box or cabinet.
Communicating with someone with dementia is one of the great challenges of the disease and something that most families struggle with. Over time your family member may not recognize you or other family members. There are some tried and true ways to keep a person with dementia calm and feeling cared for.
- To the extent that you can, stay calm and speak slowly in short sentences. Allow what you have said to sink in before moving to a new thought or request.
- Make eye contact when speaking so that you know you have someone’s attention.
- Try not to interrupt, and allow time for your loved one to respond. Break tasks into smaller steps.
- Use a positive tone of voice since people with dementia are susceptible to your frustration or anger.
- If your loved one is resisting something you want them to do, such as bathe, wait and try again later. People with dementia can be very sensitive to water and room temperature.
- Always use terms and tones of respect and try not to be condescending.
3. Health and comfort
In the chaos of caring for someone with dementia, it’s easy to forget the basics that can help someone feel better physically and emotionally. Your efforts to create and reinforce a healthy foundation for your loved one can help you, as well!
- Emphasize healthy, plant-based foods. Offer small healthy snacks throughout the day. Create a distraction-free environment during eating times. If you can, develop a routine that schedules meals at the same time every day.
- Focus on hydration. As people age, they lose their thirst mechanism, and dehydration can have serious consequences. Encourage water throughout the day, but consider flavored, low-sugar beverages if that works better.
- It can be a challenge to get people with dementia to go to the doctor. It is important to keep up with routine preventative healthcare such as dental care, eyesight checks, and lab draws. Try telling your loved one the day of or just before the appointment, so they have less time to get agitated. Keep a matter-of-fact attitude and bring along water and snacks.
- Create good sleeping habits by limiting naps and caffeine.
Activities should be an integral part of the daily life of any person with dementia. Activities keep people stimulated, interested, and calmer. They might even help with cognition and mood. The trick is to offer an activity that provides a sense of independence and empowerment without being overwhelming in complexity, which can elicit the opposite response. Here are some ideas and approaches that others report work well.
- Start with simple activities. If your loved one gets bored, then you can try something a bit more challenging.
- Incorporate activities into daily chores such as helping with meals or sorting laundry.
- Encourage physical activity such as taking a walk together outdoors. Being outside in the sun can improve mood and help people sleep at night.
- Music has been shown to have a profoundly positive effect on people with dementia. Try headphones and compile a list of their favorite music.
- Scents and smells can evoke positive memories and feelings. Baking bread or cookies can be comforting and calming. Some people have had success with scents like lavender in the bedroom at night to elicit calm.
Tips for Combating Frustration and Stress While Caring for a Person With Dementia
Combating frustration and stress while caring for a person with dementia is a full-time job. Caregiver burnout is common for families who are caring for a person with dementia. If you are burned out, you will struggle to contain your emotions and make things even worse for yourself and your loved one. Stress and frustration are a normal part of caring for someone with dementia. The trick is to manage your stress with healthy coping skills and access to caregiver resources.
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5. Get help
You may feel like you have to do everything yourself, but the fact is, you don’t. Reaching out for help and letting go of some of the control is healthy. Accept the fact that you may know what is best for your loved one and recognize that if you ask for help, you can do so with safety and wellbeing in mind. Let’s look at some suggestions to help ease your burden.
- Hire home care
Hiring professional caregivers can give you some much-needed relief while providing some stimulation for your loved one. The beneficial aspect of home care is that it is very flexible, with as few or as many hours as you need. Finances might be a concern, but it might offset some costs if you have long-term care insurance. Talk with a financial advisor about some ways to access funds for private caregiving.
- Ask other family members
If other family members are not offering to help, it’s probably because they don’t know what to do. Compile a list of simple tasks that you need help with. Some ideas include grocery shopping, picking up medications, coming for a visit, or making phone calls to get information on resources.
- Consider respite or adult daycare
Respite services through your county or state might be limited but worth investigating. Also, adult daycare for one or two days a week is very affordable and will give you rest.
6. Take care of yourself
We know you have heard it before. But it will be difficult to be the best caregiver you can without a foundation of physical and mental health. Focus on exercise, proper nutrition, stress relaxation techniques, and good sleep. If you need mental health support, contact a therapist to talk to. Most are offering teletherapy now, so you don’t even have to leave the house.
7. Be informed and realistic
Educating yourself about dementia, the symptoms, behaviors, and the trajectory of the disease can help you feel less alone. Don’t hesitate to investigate caregiver blogs where people who know what you’re going through can offer support and resources.
Being realistic means that if you can accept that dementia is highly unpredictable, it will help you cope. In fact, things may very well get worse over time since there is no cure for dementia.
Tips for Caregivers of an Aggressive Person With Dementia
Many, but not all, people with dementia become aggressive. The emergence of aggression can be shocking, especially when your loved one has never been the angry or violent type. These episodes of anger and lashing out are frightening and challenging to deal with. Our tips for managing aggressive behavior are worth trying.
8. Identify the cause
Since people with dementia have trouble communicating their needs, you may have to play detective and seek out the cause. Here are some typical causes of frustration and aggression.
- Pain or discomfort
Pain can be caused by an existing medical condition that isn’t adequately treated, temperature extremes, or even a noisy over stimulating environment. Make sure the person doesn’t need to use the toilet or have soiled their clothes.
- Hunger or thirst
Try offering a snack and some water. People with dementia may not be able to communicate hunger or thirst.
If your loved one has had difficulty sleeping, then fatigue could be a cause. Improve sleep hygiene by eliminating naps and making the bedroom pleasant and comforting.
- Poor communication
Perhaps your loved one feels overwhelmed by questions or their inability to communicate what they want and need.
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9. Stay calm and be reassuring
Try to be positive and stay calm. Reassure the person that you are there to help and take care of them. Use touch if it seems appropriate and use a soft tone of voice.
10. Try an activity
Try shifting the focus to an activity like sorting something, going for a walk or playing music. Put on a movie to watch together.
11. Check medication interactions
If you have ruled out most other causes and the aggressive behavior continues, talk with the doctor about possible medication interactions or side effects that could be causing agitation.
12. Depression or anxiety
Depression and anxiety are common in people with dementia, but treatment with medications has not proven very effective. Other suggestions include scheduling enjoyable and meaningful activities and problem-solving around issues contributing to distress.
Essential Caregiving Tips for People With Dementia
As you navigate the choppy waters of caregiving for a person with dementia, know that you are not alone. There are resources available, and our tips will help you keep you and your loved one on a path towards safety and well-being.
How can I help my friend with dementia? ›
- Keep in touch. ...
- Become informed. ...
- Lend an ear. ...
- Connect them with other caregivers. ...
- Promote self-care. ...
- Provide practical help. ...
- Surprise the caregiver with a treat. ...
- Give the caregiver a break.
Give the caregiver a head start by helping them get to know your loved one. Prepare an introduction document with useful information they'll need to work with the person with dementia. Include details such as: What triggers anxiety or irritation in the person.How do you keep someone with dementia happy? ›
- Give the person a hand massage with lotion.
- Brush his or her hair.
- Give the person a manicure.
- Take photos of the person and make a collage.
- Encourage the person to talk more about subjects they enjoy.
- Make a family tree posterboard.
Some of the greatest challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia are the personality and behavior changes that often occur. You can best meet these challenges by using creativity, flexibility, patience, and compassion. It also helps to not take things personally and maintain your sense of humor.What do dementia patients think about? ›
People with dementia think about the same things that any human thinks about — emotions, relationships, daily life, tasks to accomplish, and more. Receiving a life-changing diagnosis of dementia does not strip a person of their humanity and personhood.What should you not say to someone with dementia? ›
I'm going to discuss five of the most basic ones here: 1) Don't tell them they are wrong about something, 2) Don't argue with them, 3) Don't ask if they remember something, 4) Don't remind them that their spouse, parent or other loved one is dead, and 5) Don't bring up topics that may upset them.Should dementia patients watch TV? ›
For men and women with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, it can be especially beneficial. Watching movies and TV shows can help keep their brain active, which can stimulate positive memories, improve mood, and even increase socialization.What activities stimulate dementia patients? ›
dance, tai chi, yoga, swimming or joining a walking group to help keep you active and sociable – look out for local dementia-friendly swimming, gym and walking sessions. arts-based activities – drawing/painting classes, drama groups and book clubs can all help you stay involved.What is a dementia fidget blanket? ›
Fidget blankets or quilts offer comfort for our residents living with dementia and are laptop-sized, providing sensory and tactile stimulation for an individual.What do people with dementia need most? ›
As dementia progresses, an individual will eventually require assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) (e.g., eating, grooming, mobility) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) (e.g., meal preparation, shopping, financial and medication management) (Karon et al., 2015).
What are the 5 important traits that a caregiver must have? ›
- Patience. Those who provide home care to others need to be patient. ...
- Compassion. When someone has compassion for another they have an understanding of what the person is going through.
- Attentiveness. ...
- Dependability. ...
- Dealing with memory loss and impact of the disease on your loved one (25%)
- Handling the stress and emotional toll on self (16%)
- Having patience with your loved one (15%)
- Handling loved one's mood swings or behavior changes (12%)
other long-term health problems – dementia tends to progress more quickly if the person is living with other conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, particularly if these are not well-managed.What is the most common cause of death in dementia patients? ›
One of the most common causes of death for people with dementia is pneumonia caused by an infection. A person in the later stages of dementia may have symptoms that suggest that they are close to death, but can sometimes live with these symptoms for many months.What conditions can worsen dementia? ›
- Diet and exercise. Research shows that lack of exercise increases the risk of dementia. ...
- Excessive alcohol use. Drinking large amounts of alcohol has long been known to cause brain changes. ...
- Cardiovascular risk factors. ...
- Depression. ...
- Diabetes. ...
- Smoking. ...
- Air pollution. ...
- Head trauma.
An individual with dementia may also become confused about the purpose of objects, such as forks or pens. As frustrating as this can be for caregivers, the best way to respond is to stay calm and provide simple, clear, positive answers when the person asks for help.Do you tell dementia patients the truth? ›
The person undergoing the assessment for dementia should be allowed to decide if they want to know if the diagnosis is confirmed. In general, if a person is aware that they are going for a diagnosis they will be able to make that choice. It is recommended that a person with dementia be told of their diagnosis.What are signs that dementia is getting worse? ›
increasing confusion or poor judgment. greater memory loss, including a loss of events in the more distant past. needing assistance with tasks, such as getting dressed, bathing, and grooming. significant personality and behavior changes, often caused by agitation and unfounded suspicion.How long do people live with dementia? ›
On average, a person with Alzheimer's lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors. Changes in the brain related to Alzheimer's begin years before any signs of the disease.Does a person with dementia know they have dementia? ›
Individuals with dementia may experience memory difficulties, issues with their ability to think, and trouble completing daily tasks. They may be aware of their symptoms in the early stages of dementia. However, a person may lose this awareness by the late stages of dementia.
What is a negative attitude towards someone with dementia? ›
1.2. Attitudes Towards Dementia. A negative attitude towards dementia is related to ageism and the fear of psychiatric syndromes. When such a negative attitude becomes severe and widespread among the population, stigma related to dementia may prevent understanding and compassion towards people living with dementia.What is a good activity for someone with dementia? ›
Listening to music, dancing, or contact with babies, children or animals provide positive feelings. People with dementia often have excellent memories of past events, and looking through old photos, memorabilia and books can help the person to recall earlier times.What are three tips for helping people with dementia? ›
- Be open to new ways of interacting and communicating. ...
- Take steps to avoid agitation, stress and conflict. ...
- Recognize dangerous situations and implement precautions. ...
- Be proactive rather than reactive. ...
- Know when to ask for help.
I'm going to discuss five of the most basic ones here: 1) Don't tell them they are wrong about something, 2) Don't argue with them, 3) Don't ask if they remember something, 4) Don't remind them that their spouse, parent or other loved one is dead, and 5) Don't bring up topics that may upset them.What are 5 strategies you should use to communicate with people with dementia? ›
- Engage the person in one-on-one conversation in a quiet space that has minimal distractions.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Maintain eye contact. ...
- Give the person plenty of time to respond so he or she can think about what to say.
- Be patient and offer reassurance. ...
- Ask one question at a time.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked; If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?What is the most important thing in caring for dementia patients? ›
Allow the person to keep as much control in his or her life as possible. Respect the person's personal space. Build quiet times into the day, along with activities. Keep well-loved objects and photographs around the house to help the person feel more secure.What foods should dementia patients avoid? ›
- Margarine. A University of Minnesota study found a possible link between diacetyl (an ingredient in margarine) and Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common form of dementia. ...
- Fried Foods. ...
- Soda & Other Sugary Beverages. ...
- Processed Meats. ...
- Foods Containing MSG.
The 6Cs – care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment and competence – are the central set of values of the Compassion in Practice strategy, which was drawn up by NHS England Chief Nursing Officer Jane Cummings and launched in December 2012.What are the five safety smells that are lost with dementia? ›
The five different odors were: peppermint, fish, orange, rose, and leather, with peppermint being the easiest, and leather the hardest, to identify. The researchers found that the vast majority of participants were able to correctly identify at least 4 out of 5 odors.
What are two simple things you can do to help clients with dementia feel valued? ›
- 1 Respect and dignity. Focus on what the person can do, not what they can't.
- 2 Be a good listener and be friendly. Support and accept the person, be patient.
- 3 Do one little thing. Cook a meal or run an errand, it all helps.
- 4 Make time for everyone. Partners, children and grandchildren will be affected. ...
- 5 Find out more.
Dementia affects the way a person thinks, which can impact on their ability to respond appropriately or follow a conversation. This could be because they: do not understand what you have said.