Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.
Caring for someone with dementia; Home care - dementia
Someone with dementia will need support in the home as the disease worsens. Family members or other caregivers can help by trying to understand how the person with dementia perceives his or her world. Give the person with dementia a chance to talk about any challenges and participate in their own care.
Ask your health care provider how you can:
- Help someone with dementia stay calm and oriented
- Make dressing and grooming easier
- Talk to someone with dementia
- Help with memory loss
- Manage behavior and sleep problems
Tips for reducing confusion in people with dementia include:
- Have familiar objects and people around.
- Keep lights on at night.
- Give frequent reminders, notes, lists of routine tasks, or directions for daily activities.
- Stick to a simple activity schedule.
Regular walking with a caregiver or other reliable companion can improve communication skills and prevent wandering.
Calming music may reduce wandering and restlessness, ease anxiety, enhance sleep, and improve behavior.
The person with dementia should have their eyes and ears checked. If problems are found, hearing aids, glasses, or cataract surgery may be needed.
Supervised meals and help with feeding. People with dementia often forget to eat and drink, and can become dehydrated as a result. Talk to the health care provider about the need for extra calories due to increased physical activity from restlessness and wandering.
Also talk to the health care providers about:
- Watching for risk of choking and what to do if choking occurs
- How to increase safety in the home
- How to prevent falls
- Items to improve bathroom safety
The Safe Return Program, implemented by the Alzheimer's Association, requires that a person with dementia wear in identification bracelet. If he or she wanders, the caregiver can contact the police and the national Safe Return office, where information about the person is stored and shared nationwide.
Eventually, 24-hour monitoring and assistance may be necessary to provide a safe environment, control aggressive or agitated behavior, and meet physiologic needs. This may include in-home care, nursing homes, or adult day care.
A person with dementia may need monitoring and help at home or in an institution. Possible options include:
- Adult day care
- Boarding homes
- Convalescent homes
- In-home care
Many organizations are available to help you care for a person with dementia. They include:
- Adult protective services
- Community resources
- Visiting nurses or aides
- Volunteer services
In some communities, dementia-related support groups may be available (See: Elder care - support group). Family counseling can help family members cope with home care.
Advance directives, power of attorney, and other legal actions may make it easier to decide about the care of the person with dementia. Seek legal advice early in the course of the disorder, before the person with dementia is unable to make such decisions.
For additional information and resources for people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers, see: Alzheimer's disease support groups.
Burns A, Iliffe S. Alzheimer's disease. BMJ. February 5, 2009;338.
Review Date: 8/31/2009
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.., and Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital.
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