To say that taking care of a loved one living with dementia is challenging would be an understatement. The emotional and physical changes associated with dementia can be very hard on the person diagnosed with it.

For those taking care of a person with dementia, dealing with the memory problems, erratic behavior, mood swings, and personality changes that come with the condition can prove to be draining, both physically and emotionally.

Looking after a loved one with dementia is never easy. Still, one can do things to make the situation better for both the patient and the one providing much-needed care. If you’re taking care of a loved one living with dementia, here are some dementia care tips that can prove helpful down the road.

Elderly Clients at Aspen Senior Day Center Play A table-top game at the Center in Provo, Utah.
Clients at Aspen Senior Day Center enjoy fun games and activities with friends!

Familiarize Yourself With The Symptoms

When taking care of a person with dementia, you need to be familiar with the condition’s symptoms. That way, you’ll know what to expect once the symptoms start manifesting.

The voluntary health organization Alzheimer’s Association defines dementia as a general term for the decline or loss of thinking abilities such as memory, language, and problem-solving that are severe enough to interfere with the daily lives of those who are living with it.

Those in the early stage of dementia might still be capable of living independently, but symptoms like the following are expected to start appearing:

  • Memory lapses
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Struggling for supposedly familiar words
  • Frequently losing or misplacing things

People living with dementia will need an increasing level of care once the condition enters its middle stage, the symptoms of which may include:

  • Forgetting about significant events in their lives
  • Not remembering their home address or phone number
  • They’ll be moodier, angrier, and more withdrawn
  • Strange behavior, like refusing to brush their teeth or bathe.
  • Increased risk of wandering or getting lost
  • Personality and behavioral changes
  • Incontinence, in some cases

Those with late-stage dementia need 24/7 care, as they will progressively lose their communication and physical abilities. Expressing themselves and doing physical activities like walking, sitting, or even swallowing will become increasingly difficult. Significant personality and behavioral changes also occur during this stage, with paranoia, delusions, and compulsiveness setting in.

Art projects keep the mind busy and engaged!

Be As Empathetic As You Can Be

Looking after someone with dementia requires tons of patience on your part. Always keep in mind that it’s not your patient’s fault if they start showing any of the above-mentioned symptoms. They are hardly even aware that they’re happening.

So, if your loved one does things like refusing to bathe, wandering off, forgetting your name, accusing you of something out of paranoia, or being incontinent, do not yell or show any anger or frustration towards your patient. Doing so will only make things worse.

It would be best if you showed a little more empathy. Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes, and you’ll see how having anger directed at you would feel when you’re already feeling lost, confused, or incredibly frustrated, as people living with dementia tend to be.

Clients singing together at Aspen Senior Day Center
Music time helps bring memories of the good ol' times!

Positive Communication Is Essential

Always communicate with your loved one with dementia. They may not understand a word you’re saying, but telling loved ones stories from their past or how your day went can have a positive impact on their well-being.

As much as possible, be mindful of the tone and pitch of your voice. Always speak gently so as not to agitate your loved one. It would help if you also watched your body language because even a raised eyebrow could be interpreted as hostile. Maintaining eye contact is also essential when communicating with a person living with dementia.

Take Regular Walks With Your Loved One

As long as your loved one is still ambulatory, both of you can benefit from regular walks. Whether you do it in the park, around the neighborhood, or within your property, walking presents not only an opportunity for exercise but also for bonding. Walking can also help ease feelings of boredom, anxiety, and depression.

Don’t Forget To Take Care of Yourself

Caregiver burnout is a real thing.

With the physically, mentally, and emotionally draining nature of looking after a person living with dementia, caregiver burnout can happen to you, regardless of the level of affection you have for your ward.

While you may be taking care of someone with a progressive condition, never forget to take care of yourself, too.

If you can ask for help from other members of your family, don’t hesitate to do so.

Always find time for yourself because you wouldn’t want your caregiving responsibilities to become your life. Have someone take over from you from time to time so you can go out and spend time with your friends and other loved ones.

The tips above are just some of the things you can do to make life easier for you and your loved one with dementia, but they’re an excellent place to start. While they don’t guarantee smooth sailing at all times, the tips above should make the challenges you’ll be facing more manageable.

A photo of Melissa Andrews - Paradise Living Centers

About the Author

Melissa Andrews is the Content Marketing Strategist for Paradise Living Centers, an assisted living center for seniors with locations in Paradise Valley and Phoenix, Arizona. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and going on hiking trips with her siblings and cousins.

Helpful Tips for Those Looking After a Loved One With Dementia