3 Caregiver Strategies for Dealing with Dementia and Memory Loss

Caring for a loved one who is experiencing dementia or memory loss can be a very difficult task as it can be simultaneously heart-wrenching and frustrating for caregivers. Here are a few tips to help you care for your loved one who has memory issues in order to enhance their abilities and reduce your frustration.

1. Use memory aides

  • Hang up a large print calendar, schedule for the day, and digital clock. Be sure to keep these hanging in the same place each day, and refer to them frequently when discussing the day’s activities or orienting your loved one to the day or time. This might help to manage Mom or Dad’s expectations and reduce repetitive questions.

  • Labeling. Consider labeling items around the house including cupboards and doors so that your loved one can easily know where everything is stored and located.

  • Daily journaling. If your loved one has mild dementia or memory loss, daily journaling can be helpful to recall the events of the day. Be sure to help them and cue them in this process.

2. Use effective communication

  • Use direct and simple commands. This can be helpful especially if your loved one has more advanced dementia and difficulty processing information and instructions. Simple stating “Stand up.” is a lot easier to cognitively process than “Do you think you could stand up now?”

  • Break it down. Similar to using direct and simple commands, consider breaking a task down for your loved one if they have difficulty processing and remembering the steps to a task.

If you would like them to wash their hands, first instruct them to turn on the water. Once the water is on, instruct them to place their hands under the water. After they do this, instruct them to reach for the soap. Etc.

  • Use written and visual communication. Your loved one may be more receptive to other forms of communication if they have cognitive processing issues. Consider writing out steps or having pictures for assisting with sequencing daily tasks or other instructions.

  • Don't over-correct. If Mom or Dad continually thinks they are 60 years old but are actually 82, don’t feel the need to constantly correct them. Sometimes, it is better to go with it just simply to reduce anxiety and frustrations. However, if they are agitated or upset about incorrect information, it is definitely important to correct them in this instance in order to reassure them that they are safe and everything is okay.

3. Reduce stressful situations

  • Have a routine. If your loved one knows what to expect each day or each week, they are less likely to have anxiety that can only exacerbate symptoms of dementia.

  • Provide verbal cues and context. Set the stage for your loved one, and try to reduce “quizzing” them. For example, if your Dad’s sister comes to visit, do not ask if he knows who it is as she walks through the door; instead, say: “Look! It’s your younger sister Dotty coming to visit from Ohio!”

  • Make sure your loved on is getting enough sleep. This is an important one as we all exhibit signs of stress and anxiety when under-slept, which can only exacerbate memory loss and confusion for Mom or Dad. If your loved one begins to get their days and nights mixed up, be certain to talk to their doctor about this.

  • Reminisce together. Often times, those with even moderate staged dementia can recall the details of events that occurred over 20 years ago but they cannot tell you what they just did 5 minutes ago. Take advantage of this by reminiscing with Mom or Dad about fond memories of your past together. This can be a meaningful activity for both you and your loved one, and can be a nice stress reliever.

Caring for a loved one with dementia or memory loss is no simple task. We hope that you will find these strategies helpful in managing behaviors so that you can continue to be the best caregiver possible and your loved one can continue to age with grace!

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