Caring for Someone with Dementia

Senior woman with their caregiver at home.

Dementia is a broad term referring to a wide range of conditions which results in the decrease of mental capacity affecting everyday life. There are various types of dementia but Alzheimer’s is probably the most commonly experienced and known type. This week’s blog is dedicated to helping you navigate caring for your loved one with dementia.

Dementia may affect someone in the following ways:
– Memory
– Language ability
– Reasoning
– Intellectual ability
– Visual Perception
– Behaviour

Having a loved one diagnosed with dementia can be life-altering for the family, and knowing what to do or how to provide the right care isn’t easy. Remember to approach your loved one with understanding, empathy, patience, and care.


  • Speak clearly, slowly, and calmly.
  • Try to ask questions and communicate in short, simple sentences.
  • Don’t talk about them like they aren’t in your presence and avoid patronizing them. If they notice a condescending tone, this could upset and make them feel devalued.
  • Include them in conversations with others.
  • Try to avoid asking too many questions requiring precise answers that may test their memory. Ask general, positive questions. It can also be beneficial to frame questions in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ way. For example, a good question might be “Are you excited to see your granddaughter today?” Rather than “What did you do the last time your granddaughter came?”
  • If a person isn’t understanding something you are saying, try rewording the question or breaking it down into simpler parts rather than repeating the same words over.

Dealing with Unusual Behaviour and Memory Loss

  • Having a regular routine can help establish security and predictability at home. This will help contribute to the feeling of a safe and steady environment.
    If your loved one is yelling or becoming aggressive, it’s important to not respond with force. Instead of snapping “Stop it!”, reassure them and remind them that they are loved. Aggression can often be the result of feeling unsafe, so speaking in a calming tone rather than punishing is more likely to get them back to their usual selves.
  • If your loved one has developed more significant memory issues, tangible reminders such as photographs, meaningful possessions, and cards can help jog that memory and keep them feeling calm. This is especially important if they have moved to a care facility where their surroundings may be unfamiliar. Labels for where things go at home can also be helpful – perhaps try labeling the cupboards with “dishes”, “cups”, etc. to help them keep things in order.
  • Remember to be sensitive to their changing cognitive abilities – pointing out their errors or factually incorrect information directly can cause them to feel embarrassment, sadness, or anger.
  • If they are talking as if they are remembering a different time in their life (perhaps believing they are talking to a loved one who has passed away), try to navigate the conversation towards asking about this period of their life rather than correcting them.
  • Sometimes those with dementia may have confusion about where they are. If they live in a care home, they may ask “When am I going home?” One tactic is to redirect them, or tell them something that will calm their concern. Saying something like “We’re staying here for now, because it’s almost lunch time”, or “Traffic is bad, why don’t we watch some TV” can help ease the situation and redirect their focus.

    Keeping your Loved One Involved and Social

  • Dementia can be a very isolating condition. If your loved one is an outgoing person, give them lots of opportunity to socialize. For example, being involved in seniors groups, outings or seeing family will help maintain their cognitive abilities and stay happy. If your loved one is more of an introvert, some low-key visits from family members can also be beneficial.
  • Encourage them to continue their hobbies, and try to find outlets where they can pursue those hobbies with others.Emotional Support and Your Personal Well-Being
  • It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions when dealing with the diagnosis and care of dementia in a loved one. Make sure you have someone to talk to, whether it’s a close friend, family member, or professional. Having someone trusted to discuss issues with can help you talk out decisions, issues, and help preserve your mental well-being.
  • Try reaching out to others to help with care – sharing responsibilities with others makes caring much more manageable.

Remember that in order for your loved one to have the best possible care from you, you must also care for yourself. Make sure that you’re taking time for yourself, and do things that relieve your stress and make you happy.

Caring for someone with dementia can be physically and mentally demanding. With a good understanding of dementia and how your loved one is coping comes better management. Be sure to take time for yourself, not only to preserve your own well-being, but so that you can continue to be an effective caregiver.