Dementia — Tips for caregivers helping someone suffering from memory loss.


  • Set a positive mood: Be mindful of your body language and attitude, be respectful, pleasant and calm. Smile!
  • State your message clearly: Use simple words and statements. Speak slowly, trying not to raise your voice higher or louder, give them time to process what you are saying.
  • Distract and redirect: If they become upset or angry, change the subject or environment.
  • Behavior is usually triggered or has a purpose: People with memory issues especially dementia cannot always tell us what they want or need. Try to accommodate them and also find the triggers and avoid them.
  • Ask simple questions: Ask one question at a time, sticking to yes or no type questions. Stay away from open ended questions or giving too many choices.
  • Example: “Do you want bacon or sausage for breakfast?” instead of, “what do you want for breakfast?”


  • Sometimes people with memory loss or dementia will wander aimlessly for several reasons. They may wander due to boredom, medication side effects, or simply looking for “something’, “someone”, or “somewhere”.
  • Make time for regular exercise each day to minimize restlessness.
  • Always keep any eye on them even if you are keeping your distance, they may wander to far and become lost.

Bathing, Personal Care & Incontinence:

  • The loss of bladder and bowel control is common as dementia progresses.
  • Try to establish a routine for using the bathroom, every hour or two reminding them.
  • Schedule fluid intake so they don’t become dehydrated, but also so they don’t wet the bed during the night.
  • People with dementia and other memory issues often have difficulty remembering good hygiene. Having someone help you bathe, get dressed or use the bathroom can be humiliating and embarrassing which often leads to them not wanting to partake in it at all. Sometimes they will go days without showering, thinking they took one that morning, or the day before.
  • If they do allow you to help them shower, remember the proper way to help someone in the shower. Keep it warm, both the water and the room.
  • Try to encourage them to sit on a shower chair if there is one. Help them feel comfortable and secure. Never leave them unattended.
  • Dressing sometimes becomes difficult for them, they may over or under dress, try helping them without making them feel embarrassed. Check to make sure they don’t have on multiple pairs of undergarments, or clothing.
  • You may need to remind them to change clothes making sure they are not wearing the same clothes multiple days in a row.

Agitation & Repetition:

  • Some behaviors associated with dementia include irritability, sleeplessness, verbal or physical aggression, and repeating oneself. Sometimes triggered by anxiety, boredom, fear or change.
  • Provide them with plenty of reassurance and comfort, avoid reminding them that they have already said something.
  • Try to accommodate certain behaviors instead of controlling them. For instance sometimes they believe they are in a hotel, and refuse to believe otherwise, sometimes it is just easier to go with it. Remember what they are seeing or believing is very real to them.
  • Incorporate structure such as, having meals at the same time, in the same place, or going to the same stylist for their hair that they have always went to.
  • If all else fails, distract and redirect! If you need to step away for a minute so you both can get a grip on things, always make sure you can still see them.
  • Verbal outbursts such as cursing, arguing and threatening are expressions of anger, fear or stress. If this happens always stay calm and reassuring. (If you ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable tell us immediately)

Eating and Drinking:

  • People with memory issues will start forgetting that they need to eat or drink.
  • Make mealtimes part of a daily routine, trying to keep the time and place the same.
  • Sit down and eat with them, often times they will eat more when eating with someone.
  • Make meals special, maybe let them help, take them to their favorite restaurant, etc. Including them in the decision making and process will likely result in them eating better.
  • Encourage them to drink as much as possible while you are with them, staying hydrated is important and they may forget again after you leave.
  • On the other hand, if you are there in the evening, try to limit liquid intake to prevent accidents overnight.


  • People with dementia sometimes feel afraid or are anxious.
  • Create a calm environment. Remove stressors. This may involve moving the person to a safer or quieter place, or offering a security object, rest or privacy. Try soothing activities.
  • Monitor personal comfort. Check for pain, hunger, thirst, constipation, full bladder, fatigue, infections and skin irritation. Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature. Be sensitive to fears.
  • Ask permission; use calm, positive statements; reassure; slow down, offer guided choices between two options; focus on pleasant events; offer simple exercise options, try to limit stimulation.
  • Provide reassurance. Use calming phrases such as: “You’re safe here; “and “I will stay until you feel better.” Let the person know you are there.
  • Find outlets for the person’s energy. The person may be looking for something to do. Take a walk or go for a car ride.

Always remember, what works today may not work tomorrow! Each day is a new day for them.

Don’t take things personal

& maintain your sense of humor!