Advice for daily life

It is natural to feel at a loss when dealing with a person with dementia. This applies even if you are a close family member. How can you help them – and prevent them from hurting themselves – while at the same time show respect for their dignity and self-determination? 

  • Make an effort to converse with them in a normal fashion. If the person is “living” in the old days, then try talking about topics from the old days. They may not be as familiar or conscious about life today.
  • Avoid correcting the person. Refrain from sounding harsh – “You can’t do that, it’s the wrong way, don’t you see?” 
  • Capture the person’s feelings and do not put pressure on their memory. Rather than asking, “Do you remember what we did today?” Focus on the positive: “We went out today picking flowers. They were so beautiful.”
  • Suppress displays of anger or frustration. It is natural to get angry or frustrated as a caretaker, caregiving is never easy! Walk away and let it just wash over you – or, if possible, ask someone else to take over.
  • If the person has behaved inappropriately, resist pointing out directly that their behaviour was inappropriate. They will probably not remember the event, and doing so can create feelings of unease.
  • Refrain from commenting about the person in front of others. Do not point out their failings to other people. For dementia patients, emotions function better than their intellectual capacities. Keep in mind that no one wishes to be made a fool of in front of others.
  • If it is clear that the person is unable to cope with the situation, help reduce his/her frustration by reassuring them and aiding in a way that does not put them down. For example, offer help by saying “We can get help to do that” instead of “It would be better if I did that”.
  • Refrain from forcing a person to do something if they would prefer to do another activity. Be accommodating and try to steer them in the right direction. It may be time to eat, but they want to go for a walk in the corridor. You could try to convince them by saying “Wouldn’t it be nice to have some meatballs?” or “Wouldn’t it taste good with meatballs? Shall we see if we have any?”
  • Try to use your “intuitive feelings.” In other words, good old common sense! How is the person expected to react and feel about what I am saying, or what I want them to do? Is it my wishes or theirs that is the driving force here?

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