fbpx Skip to main content

Caring For A Person With Dementia

By April 9, 2024Moments
Caring for a person with Dementia

Caring for a person with dementia involves understanding their unique challenges and implementing effective management strategies for their well-being. In this blog, we offer caregiver advice covering travel, meals, activities, sleep, and personal care.

Dementia, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, refers to the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions, hindering daily activities. It encompasses over 25 diseases, with Alzheimer’s Disease being the most prevalent. While there is currently no cure for Dementia as of 2024, advancements in management strategies have improved over the past decades.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada estimates that 733,040 Canadians are currently living with Dementia, primarily affecting adults aged 65 years or older. Projections suggest that Canada will reach one million cases by 2030, with Dementia cases increasing by 51% annually. By 2050, it’s anticipated that 13.2% of adults aged 65 and above will be living with Dementia. The rapid growth of Dementia underscores the importance of understanding and learning how to effectively manage this challenging condition.

Despite the increasing prevalence of dementia, there is a silver lining: awareness is growing, support services are becoming more accessible, and a wealth of resources offers hope for those affected.


Understanding and Managing the Demands of Dementia Care

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, older adults with Dementia require an average of 26 hours of care per week, significantly more than those without Dementia who need 17 hours. Caring for a person with Dementia can be demanding, with about 45% of caregivers reporting distress compared to 26% caring for other health conditions. In addition, approximately 1 in 4 people living with Dementia show signs of depression.

It’s crucial to understand how to manage this condition to improve the well-being of both the person living with Dementia and the caregiver. Below, we outline tips for caring for a person with Dementia safely and effectively. We aim to transform a potentially difficult and frustrating caregiving experience into a rewarding and meaningful one.


Caring for a Person with Dementia and Helping Them Get Around Safely

Traveling can be particularly challenging for individuals with Dementia due to potential discomfort or confusion. However, with careful planning and support, it’s possible to make the journey smoother and more comfortable for both the individual and the caregiver. Here are some practical tips to consider when assisting a person with Dementia in traveling, whether by car or on foot.

Traveling by car:

  • Park on a flat area of the road and leave ample space from the curb for easy access into the car.
  • Adjust the seat back to provide plenty of room for them to enter comfortably.
  • Assist them in getting into the car, ensuring their hands and legs are comfortably positioned before closing the door.
  • Secure their seatbelt, and if they attempt to undo it, turn the seatbelt inside out to make it less accessible.

Traveling on foot:

  • Walking is beneficial for physical activity and a change of scenery, but a caregiver should accompany them for safety, especially if they tend to wander.
  • Engage them in the route planning process, considering their preferences such as enjoying nature, visiting a store, or passing by familiar places.
  • Choose familiar surroundings to promote a sense of safety and comfort.
  • Plan a safe route with clear footpaths, avoiding obstacles like roadworks or heavy traffic areas.
  • Select calm routes with slow vehicle speeds to prevent feeling rushed or anxious.
  • If they choose to walk alone, make sure they carry identification and utilize a tracking device for safety if there are any concerns. This can involve GPS trackers worn on their wrists or attached to their clothing or using smartphone apps with GPS technology.
  • Consider weather-appropriate clothing and footwear.
  • Choose routes with access to public benches and restrooms.


Engaging Activities for People Living with Dementia

Engaging in activities can significantly improve the mood of people living with Dementia, especially when faced with challenges. Incorporating activities into their daily routine can have positive effects on their mental and physical well-being. It’s beneficial to include some form of exercise, as it not only enhances their overall health but also promotes increased appetite, reduced agitation, and better sleep patterns. These activities need not be strenuous; the key is to ensure they feel comfortable and at ease.

Suggestions for safe activities when caring for a person with Dementia:

  • Start by asking them about their interests and preferences, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Walking is a simple yet effective activity for individuals with Dementia. Consider walking to nearby places like a grocery store, mailing a letter, or visiting a neighbour.
  • Swimming can be a calming and energizing activity due to the soothing nature of water.
  • Many seniors’ centers offer various classes such as art, exercise, or skill-building, providing social interaction with peers. Caregivers are welcome to participate and support the individual.
  • Additional activity ideas include listening to music, knitting, reading, solving puzzles, playing cards or board games, cooking or baking together, gardening, singing or dancing, listening to the radio, or watching TV. These activities can be tailored to suit the individual’s preferences and abilities.

Caring for a Person with Dementia During Mealtimes

Mealtimes hold more than just nutritional value; they also encompass enjoyment and comfort. However, people with Dementia may face challenges during meals, such as food rejection, forgetfulness, or becoming overwhelmed. These issues can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other health-related concerns. It’s crucial to ensure they maintain a nutritious diet for their overall well-being.

Here are some ways to support them during mealtimes:

  • Engage them in meal preparation to create a sense of fun and anticipation.
  • Use colourful utensils to enhance visibility and create a playful atmosphere. It also makes it easier for them to see and assess the food, compared to a white plate.
  • Minimize distractions by turning off radios or TVs.
  • Establish consistency in meal routines to promote familiarity and reduce distress.
  • Cut food into manageable pieces based on their chewing ability and preferences.
  • Avoid rushing and offer one food item at a time, allowing them to assess and eat at their pace.
  • Consider offering finger foods if they struggle with cutlery or become agitated.
  • Be mindful of their changing likes and dislikes, preferences can change in people living with Dementia.
  • Always provide hydrating fluids with meals to ensure proper hydration.
  • Ensure regular dental checkups to address any discomfort that may affect their eating habits.


Personally Caring For A Person with Dementia

Caring for oneself can become challenging for individuals with Dementia, particularly in tasks like dressing, bathing, dental care, and grooming. While they may require assistance, it’s essential to encourage as much independence as possible. Involve them in tasks to foster a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Here are some tips for providing personal care:

  • Install supportive devices like grab bars in the shower for added safety.
  • Ask them about the assistance they would like. They may prefer independence in certain aspects of a task, boosting their confidence when they can complete parts independently.
  • Explain each step of the task you’re assisting with to ease their comfort.
  • Provide clear and simple instructions or reminders.
  • Engage them in household chores to promote a sense of value and contribution.
  • Utilize memory aids (photos, familiar household items, etc.) and labels as helpful reminders.
  • Use hand gestures and simple short sentences.

Addressing Sleep Challenges in Dementia

Sleep disruptions are a common issue faced by individuals living with Dementia, often resulting in irregular sleep patterns and feelings of disorientation. To help manage these challenges effectively, consider the following strategies:

  • Place a digital clock near their bed that displays the time clearly, aiding in time perception and orientation.
  • Encourage regular exposure to daylight and physical activity during the daytime hours. This can help regulate their body clock and reduce the likelihood of daytime napping, promoting better sleep at night.
  • Limit the consumption of caffeine and alcohol in the evening, as these substances can interfere with sleep quality and duration.
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment in their bedroom by ensuring the bedding is cozy and using blackout blinds to block out external light sources that may disrupt sleep.
  • If sleep disturbances persist despite these measures, it may be beneficial to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation.
  • Keep pathways to the bathroom clear to avoid tripping when walking to the bathroom at night.


Enhancing Well-being and the Caregiving Experience

In conclusion, caring for a person with dementia requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses engaging activities, personalized care, and promoting sleep hygiene practices. By fostering independence and creating a supportive environment, the well-being of individuals with dementia can be significantly enhanced. This holistic approach not only benefits the individuals but also transforms the caregiving experience into a rewarding and meaningful journey for both the individuals and their caregivers.

Additionally, remember to incorporate moments of laughter and reminisce about cherished memories, such as family photos, pets, the aroma of baking, which can uplift their spirits. It’s important to demonstrate attentiveness through smiling, maintaining eye contact, and active listening. Practicing patience and recognizing them as individuals beyond their condition are also key aspects of providing compassionate care.


If you require Dementia Care in Vancouver, Calgary, Comox, or Prince George, Classic LifeCare is here to help.


Article References:

Dementia numbers in Canada | Alzheimer Society of Canada

Providing day-to-day care | Alzheimer Society of Canada

Dementia Care: Keeping Loved Ones Safe and Happy at Home | Johns Hopkins Medicine