Knowledge, patience, and practice are key to providing smart and compassionate care to people with dementia and support to their families.

What is dementia?Dementia Umbrella

Dementia is not a specific disease, it is the term used to describe several different diseases of the brain. These can affect:

  • Memory
  • Language skills
  • Visual Perception (being able to see and understand what is being seen)
  • Capability to focus and pay attention
  • Capability to reason and make decisions

What does it mean to have dementia?

  1. Two or more parts of the brain are dying.
  2. The damage can’t be fixed or stopped.
  3. It is constantly changing because it is a progressive disease.
  4. It is always terminal.

How can we as caregivers help a person with dementia?

  1. Be a detective, not a judge. Look, listen, think, and offer. Instead of reacting to negative behavior, observe the surroundings, body language of the person with dementia, and/or the time of day. Consider what might have happened throughout their day – see if you can decipher what they are trying to tell you. 95% of behaviors exhibited by people with dementia are their way of trying to communicate a need. Act in a positive way, validate and redirect.
  2. Know your client’s history. The more you know about your client’s likes and dislikes, family, profession, where they grew up, hobbies, etc. The more the more you connect with them and build a positive relationship. It also may help explain some of why they act the way they do.
  3. Understand what it’s like to have dementia. Watch the Virtual Dementia Experience – here. It will give you a new perspective on how people with dementia view their world. Remember that people with dementia are doing the best they can.
  4. To help a person with dementia complete a task, give simple instructions one step at a time. Allow time to process what you have asked them to do after each step. Use visual, verbal, and physical cues to help the person with dementia understand what you are asking them to do.
  5. Always try to use the Positive Physical Approach. This shows them respect and helps build their confidence and trust in you.
  • Pause at the edge of the public spacewonders of the brain
  • Offer your hand and make eye contact
  • Approach slowly within visual range
  • Shake hands and maintain hand-under-hand
  • Move to the side
  • Get to eye level and respect personal space
  • Wait for acknowledgment

How to support families caring for loved ones with dementia

We can support families caring for a loved one with dementia by:

  1. Being a good listener – listening to their concerns and frustrations.
  2. Validating how they are feeling. Sometimes just acknowledge that they are having a difficult time can diffuse feelings of anger and frustration.
  3. Caring for the person with dementia to the best of our abilities.

Remember, as caregivers, we have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of those dealing with dementia.

Adapted from Teepa Snow – “It’s All in Your Approach”-training DVD



Providing Smart and Compassionate Dementia Care