Lifestyle & Management
See a Geriatrics Healthcare Professional
- It is helpful to see a geriatrician (doctor who specializes in the care of older adults) to help provide a care plan. They can also diagnose and manage other health problems, and help arrange services for the person and their family.
- Geriatric specialists with training in psychology or psychiatry can help manage difficult behaviors, including agitation, psychosis, or violence. Specialists can also be helpful if people need counseling.
Other Professionals Can Help
- A neurologist can help people who have Parkinson’s disease, abnormal neurological test results, or rapid worsening of their dementia.
- Neuropsychologic consultations can help with people who have complex disease.
- Social workers can offer counseling and contact with community resources.
- Physical therapists can provide guidance on physical and group activities.
- Occupational therapists can suggest approaches to increase the person’s ability to carry out daily activities, such as dressing or eating.
- Nurses can help manage care for people with dementia, including dealing with difficult behaviors, feeding, and other types of care.
- Pharmacists can review medicines to minimize their side effects and can offer practical advice on giving them to people with dementia.
- Attorneys can help with wills and estate planning and paperwork that gives others directions about the type of health care you want in the future. Older adults with dementia should plan as early as possible for future disability and illness.
There are several strategies that can be used to manage common problems in dementia.
Schedule regular visits with your doctor every 3 to 6 months
- Ask your healthcare provider for advice about handling difficult behaviors.
- Watch for signs of new medical problems and report these to your healthcare provider quickly.
Schedule regular daily activities
- Aim for a moderate amount of interesting, stimulating activity.
- If possible, include at least 30 minutes of physical exercise daily.
Ensure an optimal environment
- Make sure there is enough light for clear seeing and reading.
- Put clocks, calendars, and lists where the person with dementia can easily see them. News programs may help in the early stages of dementia.
- Try to prevent loss of hearing aids, glasses and dentures.
- Speak in simple sentences and in a calm tone of voice.
- When you provide directions, tell the person what you want them to do.
- Avoid using slang. This can be confusing.
- Use proper names instead of pronouns (for example, “I saw Bob yesterday,” instead of “I saw him yesterday.”)
- Think back together on pleasant memories from the past in the early stages of dementia.
- Don’t try to retrain people with dementia. Instead, provide them with support to make up for lost skills.
- Provide more supervision as dementia gets worse.
- Eliminate as many sources of stress in the home as possible
- Try playing soothing music
- Tasks like bathing can be a problem so take your time to finish them slowly and gently
- Stay calm and try simple distractions
- If the person may harm someone, ask the healthcare provider if a sedative might work. However, these drugs can increase confusion.
- Make sure the bedroom is quiet, dark, and not too hot or cold.
- Treat pain.
- Limit daytime naps to 20 to 30 minutes.
- Cut back on fluids late in the day to reduce nighttime bathroom visits.
- Don’t serve drinks with caffeine or alcohol late in the day and discourage smoking at night. All worsen sleep.
- Agitation, depression, hallucinations, pain, boredom, and the need to use the bathroom can cause wandering. Treat these conditions.
- Lock doors if you think that is necessary for safety, but consider the risks. Never leave someone without a way to get out if there is a fire or other emergency.
- Have the person with dementia wear an identification bracelet or pendant in case they do wander.
The Alzheimer’s Association confidential helpline is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Caring for a person with dementia can be very difficult but rewarding. If you are a caregiver, you may need help too.
You need to understand dementia and its treatment. You need to take care of yourself and get help when you need it.
Joining a caregiver support group can help. So can getting a break from your responsibilities. Many community organizations can help.
Eventually, you may have to put your loved one in a nursing home. You need to consider this early enough to make arrangements that work for both of you. Medicare generally doesn’t pay for this type of care. Medicaid often does pay, but only if the person with dementia has a low income and few financial assets. If you are married to a person with dementia, putting them in a nursing home can affect your finances if the person qualifies for Medicaid.
Last Updated February 2023
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