If you’ve noticed signs of dementia in your loved one, or if a family member or close friend was recently diagnosed with this cognitive impairment, they’re not alone. About 10% of American adults over 65 have a form of dementia, and another 22% have signs of early cognitive impairment.
Dementia describes a grouping of symptoms characterized by cognitive impairment. These symptoms include memory loss, trouble problem-solving or carrying out multi-step tasks, issues with focus, language, and following directions, and more.
Researchers are still studying the causes of dementia, but they believe underlying issues, like mental health disease, cerebrovascular diseases, brain trauma, certain medications, changes in brain or cells, and degenerative disease, like Alzheimer’s disease, are the cause.
Knowing your loved one is in good company doesn’t ease the stress and worry that comes when someone you care about faces this serious challenge. It’s important to seek guidance from a dementia specialist, who can provide personalized guidance and advice.
Our board-certified neurologist Risa Ravitz, MD, and physician’s assistant Aviva Engel, PA-C, help patients and their families who face dementia at Modern Migraine MD in Manhattan, NYC, Toms River, New Jersey, and Aventura, Florida, and through safe and secure telehealth visits across 13 states.
At the same time, our team knows that you and other family and friends play a crucial role in the care of your loved one with dementia. To help you better cope at home, we’ve put together a list of tips for helping your loved one with dementia.
Dementia comes in many forms. In fact, researchers believe more than half of the people with dementia have mixed or combined dementia, which has more than one cause.
Taking time to research their condition and talk about it with a dementia expert, like a provider at Modern Migraine MD, helps you better understand their dementia and the ways you can best support them.
For both you and your loved one affected by dementia, having routines in place can help reduce mistakes and cut down on frustrations. If possible, work together to create simple daily routines they can follow. Dr. Ravitz and the team can provide personalized guidance based on your loved one’s diagnosis and symptoms.
You can also take away some frustration by making things as easy as possible for your loved one. For example, get clothes that make it easy for them to get dressed by themselves as much as possible, such as pants with elastic waistbands and shirts without complex buttons.
If your loved one with dementia struggles to remember things, practice giving them cues or providing context. This can help jog their memory and doesn’t put them on the spot the questioning them can, helping avoid frustration.
For example, you can say something like “This is Jane, your niece, who’s here to have dinner with you,” or “It’s almost noon. Are you hungry for lunch?” instead of asking, “Do you know who this is?” or “Did you eat lunch yet?”
People with dementia often struggle to remember things or recall the different steps they need to take to complete different tasks. You can help them by writing down important information and instructions on sticky notes or in a notebook or wall calendar.
For example, you might write down and adhere instructions for making coffee to the coffeepot. If your loved one struggles to remember people, you can create a photo book with key information about the people in your loved one’s life. This also works with objects and places.
You might also consider using assistive devices or apps to help your loved one remember when it’s time for medication or key events. Some devices can also help find your loved one if they wander and get lost.
Caring for someone with dementia can be exhausting. It’s important to avoid showing frustration or anger or trying to rush your loved one, since stress can exacerbate their symptoms.
However, staying calm and patient means practicing self-care so you don't burn out. Find what works for you. Meditation, yoga, time with friends and loved ones, a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and physical exercise can help.
Getting a break from caregiving is also key. Talk to the Modern Migraine MD team for help finding caregiver relief services near you.