9 Tips in Caring for People with Dementia: A Caregiver’s Perspective

Debbie has been a caregiver for Right at Home clients for ten years.  In those ten years, she’s seen it all.  She’s had clients with only the aches and pains of aging, and she’s worked with clients with Alzheimer’s-type dementia who pinch and get angry.  Through it all, she’s cared for each person with grace and compassion.

Because of her rich experience in providing quality senior citizen care, we asked Debbie to share what is important to remember in caring for someone with memory loss, whether it is dementia from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or another cause.  Here is what she shared:

affordable home care assisted home care at home caregivers care for older people home care services for seniors home help for the elderly in home care Minneapolis non medical senior care1.  Always be compassionate. When things get rough—when they pinch or they get inexplicably angry over nothing—keep in mind that they are not to blame for their behavior.  They are not making a choice to have dementia or to experience its effects; it’s a disease.  Don’t take the symptoms personally.

2.  Be patient. Even though it may take forever getting ready, walking, or doing any number of tasks, know from the outset that these tasks will take longer.  Budget your time accordingly.

3.  Be attentive to what they are actually saying. Pay attention to the hidden meanings of what they are saying and attempt to address the underlying issues.  If Grandma is snapping at you, it might be because she is sensitive about her forgetfulness and is trying to cover it up.  If she is angry about needing to rush, she is probably really angry with her body for slowing you down.  When you know the underlying cause of harsh words or unpleasant moods, you might be able to say something that can completely turn a situation around so it makes her feel better either about herself or the situation.  Finding her perspective makes all the difference.

4. Remind them without acknowledging that they need a reminder. Do it without being condescending or belittling.  Don’t assume that they will remember, and when they forget, don’t draw attention to it.  We’re all going to get old someday, and think of how respectful you’ll want to be treated when that day comes.

5.  Help de-clutter (but do it without throwing away things they treasure). Just helping to manage the mail, sorting important papers from the trash, can be so helpful.  Minimize the things they have to look at.

6.  Always be concerned about their family and friends.  Always talk about their needs and concerns, not your own.

senior home assistance senior companion care respite for caregivers private pay home care non medical senior care in home senior care providers in home help for seniors in home care Minneapolis home help for the elderly disability home care7.  Have them reminisce about when they were growing up. Have them tell you about the differences between now and then.  Pulling out their photo albums can be a great way to revisit the past with them.  Not only can you learn a lot from listening, but they love to reminisce and share their experiences.

8.  Be upbeat. People with dementia often live with so much depression in their lives.  Having a positive person around really helps lift them up so they don’t think so much about their aches, pains, and losses.

9.  Establish trust. Just as with younger people, it is sometimes hard for an older person to open up about themselves.  They don’t like to talk about themselves, but when you establish trust, it really is rewarding (and you even find out things you really don’t want to know).

As Debbie points out, these are important reminders for anyone who is caring for seniors, whether they have memory loss or not.  A little compassion and a change of perspective goes a long, long way.

If you are looking for other helpful resources on taking care of elderly parents with dementia, be sure to check out our other dementia articles:

Dementia is a Symptom, Not a Specific Disease (and Why That Matters)

The Dementia Primer:  8 Things to Know About Alzheimer’s and Dementia

The Dementia Primer:  6 Tips for Working with People with Dementia

The Dementia Primer:  7 Pitfalls of Caregiving for People with Dementia

The Dementia Primer:  12 Tips on Getting Someone with Dementia to Eat

The Journey of Dementia:  A Daughter’s Story


June 24, 2013


Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply