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Checklist to help care for elderly relatives with dementia

Reality of dealing with dementia

It can be quite frightening thinking about caring for elderly relatives with dementia, especially those closest to us.  Many of us can only relate to the extreme cases we have seen in the media.  Faced with the reality of caring for our elderly parents or relatives with dementia is something many of us have to face up to.  Jules spoke about this in her recent post. Here are some practical thoughts and advice to help you along.


Being reasonable, rational and logical will just get you into trouble

When someone is acting in ways that don’t make sense, we tend to carefully explain the situation, calling on their sense of appropriateness to get compliance. However, the person with dementia doesn’t respond to this any longer, no matter how logical.  Using straightforward, simple sentences about what is going to happen is usually the best way in this situation.  Perhaps they are insisting that they want to go to the supermarket. There is no point insisting that there plenty of food as you only went yesterday.  Just say we are not going to the supermarket today and tell them what you are going to do.

People with dementia do not need to be grounded in reality

When someone has memory loss, they often forget important things, for example, that their mother is deceased.   When we remind them of this loss, we also remind them about the pain of the loss. As their short-term memory is usually better, turn the conversation around to something they can remember by asking them to tell you about the person he has asked about is a better way to calm a person with dementia. 

You cannot be a perfect carer

There is no such thing as a perfect carer. You have the right to the full range of human emotions, and sometimes you are going to be impatient or frustrated. Learning to forgive your loved one as well as yourself is essential in the care journey.

Making the home safe

If you ask your parent to not do something ever again or to remember to do something, it will soon be forgotten. Taking action and ensuring that they live in a safe environment is a much better approach.   Technology advances have allowed us to make a home safer, for example installing sensors throughout the house which can be remotely accessed allowing you to monitor your parent’s movements without being too intrusive.

You can’t do it all

When people offer to help, the answer should always be “YES.” Have a list of things people can do to help you, whether it is cooking a meal, picking up a prescription, helping in the garden or staying with your elderly parent while you run an errand. It is harder to ask for help than to accept it when it is offered, so don’t wait until you “really need it”.

Tell, don’t ask

Asking “What would you like for dinner?” may have been a perfectly normal question at another time. But now we are asking our elderly parents to come up with an answer when they might not have the words for what they want. They might not be hungry, and even if they answer, they might not want the food when it is served after all. Saying “We are going to eat now” encourages the person to eat and doesn’t leave them without the words to respond.

It is perfectly normal to question the diagnosis when someone has moments of lucidity

One of the hardest things to do is to remember that we are responding to a disease, not the person who once was.  Everyone with dementia has times when they make perfect sense and can respond appropriately.  This can be very confusing.  You are not imagining things—just treasure the moment.


Do you have any tips for coping with elderly parents with dementia, let us know.  Join the conversation and share your experience in Age Space Forum.