20 Things to Remember If You Love Someone with Dementia

Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult job, one that can cause caregivers a great amount of stress. However, if you love someone with dementia, you know that the position can also bring joy into your life and be extremely rewarding if you remember a few simple things.20 Things to Remember if You Love Someone with Dementia

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are 20 things to remember when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Caregiving and Loving Someone with Dementia

Over 15 million people in the United States alone care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. While the caregiving journey can be rewarding, it is no secret that it can also be overwhelmingly challenging.

As the disease progresses, it becomes easier to forget that your loved one is still present. Many caregivers are frustrated by their loved one’s inability to communicate their thoughts and their inability to remember faces and names. The disease eventually takes away independence so that caregivers become the feet, hands and mind of people struggling with dementia.

Many people who have the disease struggle with depression, and some can become violent, further increasing frustration for caregivers. But, despite all these challenges, loving someone with Alzheimer’s can be extremely rewarding and although it may not be obvious, your loved one is still there, behind the disease.

20 Things To Remember If You Love Someone with Dementia

Here are 20 things to remember when loving someone with Alzheimer’s:

  1. Be educated about the disease. Learning as much as you can about the progression of Alzheimer’s can help you understand and empathize with your loved one.
  2. Be realistic in your expectations for yourself and your loved one. Set realistic goals and learn to expect the unexpected. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations as your loved one struggles with Alzheimer’s.
  3. Develop predictable routines and schedules. As the disease progresses it is more important than ever to have set routines and scheduled. This can help to eliminate confusion and frustration for your loved one.
  4. Do not argue with your loved one. Arguing with your loved one about a forgotten memory will only upset them and further frustrate you. Be willing to let most things go.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of good nutrition. Studies have linked Alzheimer’s to lifestyle choices, including poor nutrition. Limiting refined sugars and increasing vegetables can help manage behavioral issues.
  6. Give them independence when possible. As tempting as it may be to do everything for your loved one, it is important for them to do as many things as possible by himself or herself, even if you need to start the activity.
  7. Have fun! Your loved one can still have fun. Trips to local museums, parks and even the zoo can be enjoyed by someone with Alzheimer’s.
  8. Maintain a current list of medications and dosages of medications. This will ensure you always know when their next dose of medication will be and you will be able to accurately share any medication information with doctors or other caregivers.
  9. Meet your loved one in the now. Don’t try to change your loved one back into the person they once were. Grieve the loss of your loved one and then love them as they are right now.
  10. Plan daily time for physical exercise. It’s important to focus on the health of your mind, but also your body during this time. Physical exercise can help, especially if you plan a time for it each day.
  11. Rely on family members and other loved ones when needed. After everything you have done to support your loved one with Alzheimer’s, remember that you also need support for yourself as well. Turn to family members and other loved ones when you need them.
  12. Remember that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not a death sentence. Many people with the disease live more than 20 years following a diagnosis. Take advantage of the time you have left with your loved one.
  13. Remember that your loved one can remember emotions even after they forget the actual event that caused those emotions. Your words and actions matter!
  14. Remember the person is more than the disease. When someone is diagnosed with dementia, it can be devastating to them and their loved ones. Hold on to who you know they are, before the diagnosis.
  15. Take a deep breath! Caregiving is a big responsibility but you are doing a great job.
  16. Take care of yourself. When caregivers do not care for themselves they can experience caregiver burnout. Be sure to take a few minutes to yourself every day and join a local or online caregiver support group.
  17. Take immediate action to complete essential documents, like living wills.
  18. The disease is responsible for their mood and personality changes. It can be so hard to watch a loved one change before your eyes. Remember that they are not changing, but the disease is progressing.
  19. Understand your own emotional and physical limitations. Act accordingly to avoid caregiver burnout.
  20. Use every method of communication to reach your loved one through the disease. Art, music and reading are all ways to connect with your loved one when verbal expression is no longer an option. Even a simple touch on their arm can help communicate that they are loved.

Do you have any other things to remember if you love someone with dementia, that you’d like to add to our list? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Valerie

    My mom did a great job caring for my grandma these past 6 years. Grandma thought we were just care givers; she didn’t know we were her family but we still made sure to involve her.
    When she could still walk/go in wheelchair we would take her to eat lunch, movies, etc. and she loved it
    It didn’t matter that she didn’t know who we were; she was having fun and that’s what mattered
    For the past 3 years she’s been bed ridden but my mom still took pictures of her every holiday, bought her presents and made her know she was included even if she was confined to the bed
    She just passed away this weekend
    My advice is don’t stop visiting them just cause they don’t know you; instead keep loving them because they do have feelings still and everyone needs to be loved

    • caitlinburm

      Valerie,

      Thank you for sharing such sage caregiving advice with us. We are truly so sorry for you and your family’s loss and will be keeping you in our hearts and minds during this time.

  • Callie

    I’m amazed how many people will correct/lecture an Alzheimer’s patient.

    The person has a disconnect between the brain and vocalization; he/she might say the wrong label or speak gibberish. My mother, a late-stage patient, may point to her glass of cranberry juice and say, “That’s my father.” Of course she knows the difference between cranberry juice and her long-deceased parent! When she tries to express herself, though, the terminology gets put through a blender. She doesn’t need someone correcting her (or, much worse, laughing at her) and explaining that “juice” is the correct word.

    When someone tries to be oh-so-helpful and lecture Mom, I stop the person and ask, “What are you trying to achieve?” I usually get some weak answer about helping or improving Mom. I then explain what’s going on, and why such intrusions are harmful at best and never do any good at all. It’s fine to correct a young child; A.D. is cognitive degeneration, and scolding can’t fix it.

  • Peggy

    Hello, My name is Peggy. Just love these 20 things to remember if you love someone with dementia. My Dad was diagnosed with dementia. Thank you for sharing!

    • caitlinburm

      Peggy,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s dementia diagnosis, but glad to hear that you enjoyed this article on “20 Things to Remember if You Love Someone with Dementia.”

      I think it’s important to keep these things in mind all year long, but I also always find this article particularly helpful around Valentine’s Day.

  • Karen

    My mom and I have always been very close. This disease has caused her to think That I am a bad daughter and by just me visiting or calling her she gets really upset and angry. How should I proceed

  • This is a great list and I particularly like number 12, 13 and 14. With respect to “Many caregivers are frustrated by their loved one’s…inability to remember faces and names,” I offer these helpful 20 questions: http://myalzheimersstory.com/2015/04/09/20-great-questions-to-ask-when-a-loved-one-with-dementia-doesnt-recognize-you-anymore/

  • Becky Marks

    I have found older music (eg. Pandora) that plays music from my mom’s era and shows a picture of the artist at the same time. Doris Day, Jimmy Durant and so on. Love to see and hear her recognize the music. She sings along of course.

  • Derrek

    just a thought, it’s a little funny that the title includes ‘things to remember’… 😉

  • Eileen Locacius

    I’ve been taking care of my mother-in-law for about a year now. We realized she can remember a lot of things from 20 years ago like it was yesterday. The problem she is having is the present, and things that happen yesterday or even a couple of years ago. She doesn’t think she needs any of her medications especially at night she thinks it’s to help her sleep. We were told to get a medical & financial power of attorney. I lost a step mother to Alzheimer’s, and before she died she had no idea who we were, this is a dark illness.

  • Rachael Wonderlin

    This list is a LITTLE too close to my copyrighted list, “16 Things I Would Want If I Got Dementia”…

    • A

      You copyrighted something so obvious. This 20 tips and your 16 tips are just advice. Next time you see someone sad at the a park or the grocery store and you give them a pep talk, are you going to conclude by asking them to pay you for your time, sounds like it. Stop being ridiculous.

  • Lori

    My mother has Alzheimer’s and is dating again I told her it was a great idea to be with someone you like and do fun things but she’s refusing to tell him she’s sick and is now talking about marriage and moving away with him I’m scared for her cause he has no idea how sick she is and what’s going to happen if she moves and forgets who he is and is stuck in this new city she moved to what do I do to explain to her she needs to slow down and not move away. I’m nervous she’s going to get hurt.

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