Caring for Someone with Dementia

Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, thinking, and reasoning skills that are severe enough to interfere with the activities of daily living. In addition to memory, dementia causes problems with language, behavior and emotions. There are many different types of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia or Lewy Body dementia. 

Caring for an individual who has dementia can be extremely challenging, especially with regard to communications. These tips might help you:

  • Limit distractions. Before speaking to them, make sure you have their attention and maintain eye contact.
  • Ask simple questions that require a simple answer like yes or no. 
  • Be patient and give them time to answer. 
  • Respond with affectionate expressions such as holding hands or touching, and praise to help keep them encouraged.
  • Make tasks more manageable by breaking down directions into simple steps.

Another area that can also be challenging is ensuring your loved one is getting proper nutrition. Individuals with dementia may forget to eat and drink, so their nutritional needs should be monitored carefully. Here are some ways to help: 

  • Serve foods that are familiar to them.
  • Encourage fluids and snacks or small meals regularly.
  • Give them one course at a time so they don’t have to make choices.
  • Closely monitor those individuals who may have difficulty chewing or swallowing.

People with dementia may not be maintaining their personal hygiene. If they are calmer during certain parts of the day, use that time to help them with their hygiene routine, and pay attention to water temperature and lighting to see what works best for them. 

Dementia can often cause agitation and aggressive behavior. Try to determine what triggers the aggression so you can prevent it in the first place. Make sure you remove any items in the house that could be used to cause harm. You can put locks on cabinets and drawers containing knives and sharp objects. Be sure to let doctors and other family members know about the behavior.

It can be extremely frustrating for seniors living with dementia. Help them maintain their dignity and safety by continuing to treat them with respect and being patient with their unique needs.