The Do's and Don'ts of Looking After Someone With Dementia

Sara Rutherford By Sara Rutherford, 11th Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Recovery & Coping

This article offers advice about how to cope with caring for someone with dementia

Dementia Care

A diagnosis of dementia in the family is devastating. I remember the first time dementia was mentioned in relation to my Mother and I was shaken to the core. It was one of those times when the world stops spinning but no one else seems to notice as they go about their business. I knew my world would never be the same again. Because my Mother had numerous health issues at the time, we all assumed that her lack of concentration and loss of memory was the aftermath of a coma she had been in a few years earlier. By the time we sought medical advice and dementia was diagnosed, my Mother was already ‘gone’.
So, let us explore the signs and symptoms of dementia. Dementia is a progressive disease so symptoms increase in severity over time. There are however medications available now that can control and reduce these symptoms, so early diagnosis could be beneficial.

Symptoms of dementia.
• Difficulty remembering newly learned information.

• Confusion…… They may forget how to get to familiar places, forget what they are doing or saying and have difficulty performing familiar tasks.

• Mood and behaviour changes…… They may perform repetitive tasks or movements. They may also become frequently frustrated, even violent.

• They may forget familiar words whilst speaking and replace words they can’t remember with an incorrect word (they may say something like ‘look at that lovely flower’ instead of saying ‘look at that lovely tree’). They also may replace words with words such as ‘thingy’ or ‘thingy-me-bob’ or similar expressions

• Loss of concentration…………..They may find it difficult to maintain enough concentration to read or follow the plot of a film or drama on tv. They may have difficulty following conversations and may start talking about a totally unrelated topic during a conversation. They may also constantly repeat the same information over and over again, or ask the same question repeatedly

• Losing track of familiar dates or events and eventually people……………They may forget anniversaries or birthdays. They may not be able to recall the current date or even year. Eventually they may not recognise their loved ones or they may mistake their loved ones for someone from their past

Do’s and don’ts
Never argue or constantly correct someone with dementia when they have their facts wrong. This just causes you frustration and the person with dementia distress. If the person with dementia becomes aggressive or distressed try to keep calm and distract them.

Your relationship with the person with dementia has changed because they have changed. This can lead to feeling of grief and loss. Expect these feelings but try and focus on what your loved one now needs. Sometimes when we are dealing with someone with dementia, their changes are so painful for us that we try to brow beat them into behaving ‘normally’. Please be aware that this tactic will not work and will only create a great deal of distress for both of you.

Having dementia is very confusing and can lead to anxiety. If your loved one appears distressed, try and figure out what they are trying to communicate. Are they bored? Is something upsetting them? Don’t get caught up in their anxiety because this will distress them even more because they will then start feeding off your anxiety. If you can’t work out what is troubling them, just distract them with something you think will calm them down.

Dementia causes short term memory loss but long term memory still usually functions. This means your loved one may be living in the past and think the people around them are from their past. One way to use this to create good feelings in your loved one and spend quality time together is to actively encourage them to talk about their past memories. It can help to look through photos to prompt memories to discuss. They may not be able to create new memories but you can help them polish the memories they do have.

If your loved one has trouble remembering how to perform familiar tasks, have clearly written instructions on the wall or somewhere prominent to prompt them.

When engaging with someone with dementia, try and speak to them face to face. Peripheral activity and noise can be more confusing for someone with dementia especially as the disease progresses.

Think of things that your loved one used to enjoy and be creative in trying to keep them stimulated as much as possible. For example, if they used to love knitting you could give them some wool and knitting needles. It does not matter if they can no longer knit properly. They may get pleasure doing the repetitive movements or from the feel of the wool.

If your loved one is at the stage where you feel they need extra care to keep safe, make enquiries about care available. There are specially trained carers for people with dementia to support them to live as long as possible in the community. Your loved one may resist this but don’t let this influence you. Once a carer is involved they can often be a good social contact for your loved one.

Make sure you look after yourself during this time. You can help far more if you are happy and healthy yourself.

Prepare to feel a range of emotions during this time. You may feel irritated, frustrated, grief, loss, anger and worry. This is normal. Be kind to yourself and make sure you get help when you need it.

Sometimes people with dementia neglect their personal hygiene and can sometimes have an aversion to bathing. Baby wipes and moist toilet tissue can come in handy if this is the case.

The Alzheimer’s org has lots and lots of info about dementia. Go on line and look at their website. You can also ring them for advice. They are very helpful.


Alzheimers, Carer, Caring, Dementia

Meet the author

author avatar Sara Rutherford
I have vast Business experience but about 15 years ago I changed
my career path to study Homeopathic medicine. I am also a Psychological Coach, Agony Aunt and Life Coach.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
11th Sep 2013 (#)

Life takes unexpected turns and it is for us to cope - nothing is constant. Thanks for a very useful share, Sara - siva

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author avatar Sara Rutherford
11th Sep 2013 (#)

Thanks siva ;-)

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
12th Sep 2013 (#)

I lost my father to Alzheimers and believe me its a tough time to see your love one suffer. Still thank you for sharing this information.

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