5 Tips for Caring for Someone with Dementia

There’s a relatively new book about caring for people with dementia. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but the review I saw excerpted a few tips that sound useful and right in line with what I’ve read other places and heard in presentations over the years. The book is A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia: Using Activities and Other Strategies to Prevent, Reduce and Manage Behavioral Symptoms by Laura Gitlin & Catherine Verrier Piersol.

  1. Keep things simple. Instead of giving instructions with multiple steps, use one step verbal instructions. Try something like, “Please come into the dining room.” Once the person with dementia has actually come into the dining room, follow with a separate instruction of, “Please sit down.” This will be easier for the person with dementia to follow than, “Come into the dining room and sit down.”
  2. Be aware of clothing preferences and limitations. Choose clothes that the person likes and lay them out in the order the person with dementia will put them on. If this person is especially attached to a particular article of clothing and you have trouble getting it into the wash, buy several identical pieces. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but it can help you keep things clean and fresh while you’re family member is happy wearing his or her favorite outfit.
  3. Food preferences and limitations are just as important as clothing quirks. Present one food at a time on a solid color plate. Doing so minimizes distractions from patterned plates and from too many choices.
  4. If you notice fidgeting, restlessness, or loud talking, be aware that these may be signs of frustration. Maintain a respectful, non-threatening distance as you try to resolve the situation.
  5. This may be most important: take good care of yourself. You may need to hire help, ask family or really good friends to stay with the person you’re caring for so you can get some occasional respite. Nursing homes sometimes offer respite beds so that families can go to important events like weddings or graduations, or so that they can simply rest and recreate themselves.


Watch for signs of frustration, such as fidgeting, restlessness and loud talking. Consider staying at arm’s length. If y come too close the person may feel threatened or become angry.



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