How to Help People with Dementia


To families and friends, caring for a loved one with dementia faces several difficulties. Dementia patients from disorders like Alzheimer’s and related illnesses are undergoing a gradual biological brain disorder that makes it increasingly difficult for them to think about things, think clearly, interact with others, and take care of themselves. You can maintain an element of control as a caregiver by teaching yourself about dementia and having a positive but practical attitude. It can take the sting out of the remarkable challenges you face and enhance the care you provide as well.

Here are some key facts to recognize when you approach someone with dementia to take care of your role:

Check first with the doctor

There may be an underlying medical cause for behavioral problems: the patient may be in pain or have an adverse side effect from medication or lack of sleep. In some cases, such as incontinence or hallucinations, some medication or treatment may be available that can help manage the problem.  Sometimes it is difficult to handle and you would need a doctor.

Actively empathize

Treatment begins with sympathy and compassion. This is valid in all human relationships, but it can be particularly important for caregivers with dementia. People with dementia, for instance, are liable to become confused about their whereabouts and even the time in which they live.

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Be a realistic caregiver

Be realistic about what is successful during disease progression. According to Jane Byrne, project manager at FirstCare nursing home Dublin, “Be realistic about what is successful during disease progression. Success helps ensure the person you care about is as relaxed, happy and safe as possible. Many seasoned careers with dementia will tell you they have good days and bad days for the person they care for.” Through time, dementia appears to get worse and there is no known cure. (Dementia induced by medicines is an influential exception and can be reversed if medicines are withdrawn.)

Related:   How Sleep impacts Brain Health

Dementia is more than memory loss

The loss of memory is a classic symptom of dementia. But certain forms of dementia, especially frontotemporal dementia and Pick’s disease, manifest themselves as changes in personality rather than loss of memory.

Divide tasks into a number of steps

This makes it much more accessible for many jobs. You should motivate your loved one to do what he can, inform him kindly of steps he appears to neglect, and support him with steps he can no longer do on his own. It can be very helpful to use visual indications, such as demonstrating him with your hand where to place the dinner plate.

State your message clearly:

Using words and phrases that are plain will help. Speak slowly, simply, and in a voice of reassurance. Desist from losing your temper louder or higher; instead, lower your voice. Use the same wording to repeat your message or question if she doesn’t understand the first time. Wait a couple of minutes and rephrase the question if she still doesn’t understand.

Respond with reassurance and affection

People with dementia frequently find themselves disturbed, nervous, and unsure. In addition, they often become puzzled with reality and may recall things that have never really happened. Do not try to persuade them that they are incorrect. Remain focused on the emotions they display (which are genuine) and reply with gestures of comfort, encouragement and reassurance, both verbal and physical.

Craig Gustafson

InnoVision Health Media reports on health content that is supported by our editorial advisory board and content published in our group of peer reviewed medical journals.

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