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Tips for Caregivers of Dementia Patients

Updated on October 10, 2008

Tips for Caregivers of Dementia Patients


People with dementia can have trouble concentrating, following instructions, and initiating or following through with plans. This can lead them to become completely inactive and isolated. Here are some tips for helping your loved one remain as active and involved with others as possible.

Build structure. Do not be afraid to give activities structure and routine. It is fine for the person to do same thing at the same time every day. If he has a sense of routine, there is a greater chance that he will look forward to an activity with a positive attitude.

Be flexible. Adjust to the person’s level of ability and look for hidden messages. When the person insists that she does not want to do something, it might be her way of telling you that she cannot do it or fears doing it. If an individual patient has a problems with one part of a task such as separating dishes and putting them into a cabinet, you might want to take over part of the task and ask the person to hand you dishes one by one.

Stress involvement. Emphasize activities that help the individual feel like valued part of the household and experience a feeling of success and accomplishment. Working along with you on such tasks as setting the table, wiping countertops, folding napkins or emptying wastebaskets will help the person feel useful and sociable.

Do not forget the family. Plan for social activities such as family picnics or birthday parties, but make special allowances for the person with the disease. Allow for frequent rest periods and try to prevent family members from overwhelming the individual.

Focus on enjoyment, not achievement. Help the individual find activities that build on remaining skills and talents. A person who was once a professional artists might become frustrated over the declining quality of her work when engaged in an art activity, but someone who never pursued art as a career might enjoy a new opportunity for self-expression.


When a person with dementia becomes combative, angry or agitated, it may be because of frustration. The individual may feel that he is being pushed to do something that simply cannot be done.

Be on the lookout for frustration. Look for early signs of frustration in such activities as bathing, dressing, or eating and respond in a calm and reassuring tone.

Do not take aggression and combativeness personally. Keep in mind that the person is not necessarily angry at you. Instead, she may misunderstand the situation or frustrated with her own disabilities.

Avoid Teaching. Offer encouragement, but keep in mind the person’s capabilities and do not expect more that he can do. Avoid elaborated explanations or arguments.

Learn from previous experiences. Try to avoid situations or experiences that make the person combative. For example, if the individual tries easily when she visits with family members, you might want to limit the length of these visits. Try to identify early signs of agitation. For example, outbursts are sometimes preceded by restlessness, frustration, fidgeting, or blushing.


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    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 

      5 years ago from LA

      This is very helpful information. Thank you. I am helping out with my mother once in a while. She is 82. and just survived a broken hip. After being in the hospital, she was mush worse, mentally. I have to be careful not to take things she says, personally.

      And not to get angry at everyone who is taking care of her, that they are not doing things right. I think they are, I just feel so helpless in trying to help her.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Take preventive measures. Just like kids, limit their fluid intake closer to bed time. Watch out for constipation, feed them fruits and vegetables that promote good regular bowel movement.



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