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Basic Tips for Caregiving for Dementia

Did you know?

Helping your loved ones feel useful and competent will go a long way toward them feeling happier and having a sense of autonomy and control.

  • Offer your loved ones choices.
  • Assist them to do as much of a task as they can by themselves.
  • Find ways in which persons with dementia can feel useful.

Video

Watch a video that describes how to approach a person with dementia so as to minimize his or her anxiety (4 minutes 20 seconds long).

Several tips on how to behave as caregivers of loved ones with dementia will help ease your loved ones’ anxiety and help you have satisfying relationships, even as your roles change with respect to each other. The goal is to allow them to keep their dignity and autonomy as much as possible while providing them with the help they need. Following certain tips that often work with any form of dementia will help you reach this goal.

Approaching a Person With Dementia: Use a Positive Approach

For many caregiving tasks, using the following approach will help your loved ones better understand what is going on and reduce anxiety, especially in middle to late stages of dementia.

  • Approach from the front: This will help loved ones with dementia be aware that you are coming. Approaching from the back can produce anxiety.
  • Walk slowly: Allow time for loved ones with dementia to take in that you are approaching
  • Stand to their sides: This is a supportive stance, whereas standing right in front of them may feel confrontational
  • Call them by name: Use their names just to get their attention. As dementia progresses they may respond best to their first names, because they often remember them the best
  • Crouch low: Crouching down if they are seated or lying down helps them feel less threatened.
  • Offer your hand: Their responses to this gesture will give you an idea of whether they would welcome further touch such as hugs.

Getting the Cooperation of Persons With Dementia

  1. Use the positive approach described above
  2. Keep instructions short, simple, and concrete. Also use visual and tactile (touch) cues
  3. Offer simple choices rather than asking yes or no questions
  4. Ask for their help
  5. Ask them to try
  6. Break it down in simple steps
  7. If it does not go well, back off, review your approach compared to these guidelines, and try again

Using Touch With Respect

While touch can be reassuring and pleasant, people differ as to whether or not they like to be touched. For people with dementia, offer your hand and use their response as an indication of whether or not they welcome being touched.

Hand Under Hand Technique of Assistance

It may be helpful to put your hand under the hands of persons with dementia when guiding them in a task. You may just need to remind them how to do something at first and then let them go on their own. Let them do as much as they can do on their own.

Traveling With Someone Who Has Dementia

When traveling with your loved one, be sure to plan ahead so that the trip is enjoyable for everyone and you are prepared for any potential problems. You should consider the stage of your loved one’s disease, and whether the trip you are considering is a good idea, or even possible.

Be sure the type of travel, the length of time you are gone, and the place you are visiting is appropriate for you and your loved one’s abilities, needs, and preferences. Some precautions you can take include:

  • Bringing medication
  • Packing a change of clothes in case of an accident
  • Asking another person to come along for help
  • Scheduling extra bathroom stops along the way
  • Scheduling extra breaks
  • Traveling during the day rather than the evening
  • Avoiding unfamiliar or busy places that might upset or confuse your loved one

Resources

10 Tips for Family Caregivers

Source: National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA)
Description: This list includes 10 simple tips to make everyday tasks related to caregiving more manageable and to remind caregivers to take care of themselves, too.

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Dementia and Traveling

Source: Better Health Channel
Description: This web page provides information on traveling, including warning signs against travel, traveling overseas, tips for traveling by plane and by car, making traveling less stressful, and other things to remember.

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Travel Safety

Source: Alzheimer's Association
Description: This article offers tips on how to travel safely with your loved one, including general guidelines, a section with special tips for air travel, and special considerations to take when visiting family and friends.

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