Community Blog

Caring for a Person With Dementia

By Debbie Humphrey

Dementia is a disease that affects 5.4 million people in the U.S. and is predicted to double every 20 years.  While dealing with Dementia can feel like a helpless situation, understanding your loved one’s experience, and seeking support from others can be a big help.

Recognizing Dementia

In the past decade, dementia has gradually begun to receive more awareness in part due to the entertainment industry. Away From Her, a 2007 Oscar-nominated film, portrayed a woman with Alzheimer’s voluntarily entering a long-term care facility to avoid being a burden on her husband. In the film, memory deterioration caused her to lose recognition of her husband and she instead draws a close friendship with another man in the facility. Additionally, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes features a father with dementia and a strong emphasis is placed on the daily hardships of dealing with the disease.

Despite the attention that Hollywood brings to the disease, people oftentimes do not fully understand the disease or the great responsibilities that come with even visiting a person with dementia.

Caring for Someone with Dementia

Dementia places a great burden of responsibility on caregivers, friends and family members. You’ll likely be dealing with a wide range of emotions and concerns. We aren’t born knowing how to care for  a person with dementia—but following a few of these guidelines can really help:

Help the person feel valued by:

– Using their name whenever possible
– Respecting their cultural values
– Giving them consideration
– Respecting their privacy

Communicate consistently and precisely by:

– Setting a positive mood
– Speaking clearly to them
– Distracting and redirecting them when necessary
– Responding with reassurance
– Talking about the ‘good ole days’
– Asking simple, answerable questions
– Maintaining a sense of humor

Keep behavior in check and don’t portray agitation

– Remember that you cannot change them
– Keep in mind that their behavior has a purpose

– Reduce the noise and clutter in the room whenever possible
– Maintain a routine
– Use calming techniques

Enact specific goals when it comes to nutrition by:

– Making meals a daily routine
– Making each mealtime special
– Encouraging them to eat independently
– Eating with them
– Preparing foods with them in mind

Take certain precautions for potential wandering

– Have them exercise regularly
– Create faux barriers to outdoor access areas
– Place car keys (or other transportation items) out of immediate sight
– Provide them with a safe place

Create a safe environment for them by:

– Having proper lighting throughout a home
– Removing or replacing things that could cause falls
– Removing dangerous substances
– Be aware of kitchen safety hazards

Getting Support for Dementia

Caring for someone with dementia is no easy task. It can easily turn into a 24 hour a day responsibility – far too much for one person to handle. While each day is different from the next, it is important to remember that you’re not alone.

“The journey into dementia has its disappointments to be endured as well as its triumphs to be cherished. In all of the uncertainties and confusion there may also be signs of hope, for this is a journey with intersecting signposts; reminders of the past and pointers to the future. There are always fresh opportunities for a new walk on a new day. “ – Rosalie Hudson in her novel  Dementia: Walking not Wandering