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.

      • Patti

        Not many of these are helpful to me I moved in with my father so he could stay in his own home and I didn’t have to drive 90 minutes one way every Sunday my only day off fro work it was taking a toll on me. That was 3 years ago. I left my job even though I was working from home because that stress was making me ill. My father thinks I moved in to take over his life which I didn’t he is pretty much self sufficient except he can’t drive and walks with a walker. He is 94 now and is a bull surviving 2 broken hips. He is so angry his life is stifling with a walker and he hates me. He thinks I move things he can’t find or puts tho gs in his desk and dressiers that he doesn’t remember he had. Then he gets mean and verbaluabusive and won’t talk to me. I have no family to help me and he now thinks I lost my house because I am too stupid. I sold my new condo and gave up my life to give back to him for being a good father. Mom has been gone 18 years now. I don’t tell him what to do and I don’t steal anything but he thinks I’m a terrible person. He won’t shower and wears the same clothes for two weeks or more only changing underwear and socks I want to look into a Veterans home for him thinking he would be happier. I would probably get arrested if I left him here alone. But my health isn’t great I have arthritis and RA and no life He hates me here but hates me when I am gone 4 hours for errands or dr appointments. I’m at a lost

        • Debbie

          I’m so sorry to hear this, as it is similar to my situation. It helps to remember that it isn’t “them” talking to you anymore; it’s the illness itself. They no longer are the person who once loved and adored you because the illness has overtaken their ability to understand basic reasoning. It’s sad! My son in laws grandmother has lived with him and my daughter for five years now. She adopted him when he was three because his mother (gma’s daughter) abandoned him. So, he built a new home with a stand alone, fully functional space for her because he contributes his success in life to her upbringing and he wants to pay her back for her goodness and grace. Well, she has been diagnosed with dementia in the last year and his life has been turned upside down. She won’t take her meds, but is adamant she does, wears the same clothes for weeks at a time and doesn’t shower, ever! I mean… ever!! Has gone for a year without showering and will only wash her hair every few months. She tells her daughter (his bio mom) that he won’t let her eat, shower and takes her money. He has come to the realization she needs assisted care away from his home to protect himself. It’s all just so terribly sad for children or grandchildren who try to help their aging loved one’s. I know it helps to talk about it so feel free to reach out if you’d like. Know there are people out here to help you cope!

  • 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

    • kay

      So similar to my case. its painful and frustrating.

  • 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.

  • Brandon Morris

    My grandfather has dementia..I think. He remembers me but most days doesn’t know my grandmother he’s been married to for 66 years. He keeps telling me about people who tell him he has three other homes identical to the only place he’s lived for 60 years.. He’s almost gotten combative with me because I won’t let him drive. Help!!!

    • Gloria

      Your never suppose to tell a person with dementia the truth, I know its sad to say but they say it brings saddest and hurt to them which makes them become aggravated and combated because they don’t understand or cant process it.. Maybe with driving thing you can tell him its a rental car and that your the other person that can drive it. Also for your grandmother if he doesn’t remember her then you have to let it be. One day he will bring her up but for now you just have to deal with the fact that he doesn’t know her. yoy could try showing him pictures of them and asking him does he remember the day they went to the beach or whatever there doing in the picture.

  • Heidi Merkell Bayer

    My mother has dementia. She forgets almost everything but most of the time doesn’t realize it. She always treated each of her 3 children differently. My oldest brother was always #1 and could do no wrong. The second son was just okay and then there’s me. Her only daughter. I was blamed for everything and she always made me feel second class but she must of thought that I could handle her affairs as she aged because she left me with complete control of her health and financial responsibilities. Lucky me, right? It’s strange that as her dementia progresses she still treats us all just as she always has. She’s so happy to see my brothers and when she sees me her whole demeanor changes. Our relationship has not changed. She may have forgotten most of her life but she has not forgotten the way she treats me. I had to give up on getting an apology from her. It’s too late. I can see in her eyes that I am her safe place and I know she loves me and appreciates what I do for her. I miss her so much and she is sitting right next to me.

  • Bea

    I was the closest to my Mother , always helping her & she
    now refers to me as “the Horrible Daughter”. Not sure if my siblings
    have anything to do with this as they love to talk behind my back , or
    if its dementia. She only lets my brothers see her or help her now
    & the funny thing is they have taken advantage of her financially
    many times so that worries me. Just dont know what i can do about it as
    she tells everyone that she only trusts them. Since i dont talk with
    my brothers for taking so much from our mother, I dont even know how
    she is , they wont share a thing with me. I’m sure its so they have
    full control …very sad & heartbreaking! Not sure what to do.

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