Caring for seniors with dementia

Taking care of a senior with dementia, including Alzheimer's, requires patience and dedication. Dementia may progress slowly giving family and friends an opportunity to seek help from medical specialists in the field of geriatrics.

There are more medications on the market now to help people with Alzheimer's. who are forgetting the names of close friends and family member. They may even be forgetting how to care for themselves.


If you are assisting someone with dementia, schedule feeding and bathing at a time when the person is less likely to be confused. People coping with dementia may be able to bathe and dress themselves at certain times. Also schedule medical appointments and other activities for this time, often midday.

Be flexible in your timing for activities. If the patient does not feel like eating at a given time, don't force the meal. Ask the patient what he or she thinks would be a good time for eating. Also ask the patient about food preferences based on dietary recommendations from the patient's doctor.

Allow the patient to become involved in all of his or her activities as much as possible. People who have taken care of themselves most of their lives may not like being dependent on someone else. They need to be involved and reassured that you there to help them when needed because you care.

Limit choices for most things so that the person does not have to make decisions. Making decisions is difficult for a person with a confused mind. Distractions such as television or other noise should be removed while the patient is eating, bathing or becoming involved with other activities.

People with dementia often remember things from the past. If communication is difficult, try music from past decades. Craft work such as knitting or painting may be a way to communicate with a dementia patient.

Older man

Safety and comfort

An elderly patient must be in a safe environment. This includes flooring that is non-slip, secure and easy to walk on without tripping. An elderly person with or without dementia may walk with a cane or walker.  Avoid throw rugs.

Lock cabinets and drawers that might contain harmful object or medications. This is similar to the procedure used for toddlers, keeping certain things out of reach.

Maintain a comfortable indoor environment. Make sure air filters are cleaned or changed on the heating and air conditioning system to keep allergens out of the air. The indoor temperature should be comfortable for patients and caregivers. Elderly people, especially those with dementia, may be more sensitive to cold.

Your home that is shared with an elderly person should be fireproof. It's not uncommon for a person with dementia to turn on a stove burner to make tea or soup and forget about it. You must have fire alarms and fire extinguishers handy even though you hope they will never be used.

Watching someone you love deteriorate mentally and physically is always difficult. Support from other family members and friends is important. Your care giving will be appreciated.