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Dementia is syndrome that is usually progressive and is caused by a variety of brain illnesses. It affects memory, thinking, behavior, and the ability to perform daily tasks. Dementia is the blanket term for many brain illnesses that affect the memory, some of which include: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy bodies’ dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Frontotemporal dementia.   


According to the World Health Organization, the number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently estimated to be 47 million people. It is expected for this to triple by 2050. Dementia is not only hard on the people who have it, but also their caregivers and family members. Being educated on dementia and knowing what changes and behaviors to expect can be a caregiver’s best tool.  


Some helpful tips include:

Learn how to redirect. You need to get really good at creating distractions and shifting a person’s focus off the issue at hand and getting them involved in something else. Examples of this would be if a person is focused on leaving the home, you could say “well before we go, I need you to help me find my purse” or “I am waiting on a phone call right now, let’s wait a little while before leaving.” Then you could offer an activity a few minutes later and get them interested in another activity.


Keep things simple by giving instructions one step at a time, speaking slowly and limiting choices. In more advanced cases of dementia asking them to pick something out to wear may be too overwhelming, so consider setting out 2 outfits and let them pick. Having a caregiver choose for them may be an easy alternative, but is does not preserve their dignity and empower them. A small thing such as picking their outfit can also be an activity that provides stimulation. Also, be patient, take your time and provide step-by-step instructions. You may need to repeat or redirect, but their participation in daily tasks can be important to their well-being.


Be capable of entering their world. Because of their disease, their brain is not functioning like ours. Just as you would not expect a person with kidney failure to make their kidneys work again, don’t always presume someone with late-stage dementia is able to have a conversation about daily events. Instead, consider conversing with them as if their perceived events actually happened. For example, if they say they just went golfing, you ask them how their golf game was today and if they had fun and who else was there. Or if they talk about work, ask how their day went.


Most importantly, stay positive, caring, and practice techniques that can help you in situations that are challenging. If someone you know is struggling with dementia or you’re caring for a person with dementia, call Western Illinois Home Health Care at 1-800-228-5993. Our staff is trained in dementia care and we have a wide variety of supportive services that can be utilized.


Amanda Powell, BSW, is a Senior Care Manager at Western Illinois Home Health Care


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January 2018

by Amanda Powell

Tips for Caring for a Person with Dementia