I’m caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
There are many different types of dementia (disorders of the brain), including Alzheimer’s disease. Currently there is no cure or way to reverse the progression of dementia. Caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be challenging and the more the disease progresses, the more help they will require.
Understanding the progression of dementia and how you can help.
In the early stages:
Common symptoms include forgetfulness, communication difficulties, and changes in mood and behaviour. People in this stage may understand how they are changing and be able to talk to others about it. They may also wish to help plan and direct their future care.
- Encourage activities such as puzzles and reading to help stimulate their brain
- Spend time talking to them and encourage visits with friends and family
- Be flexible about routines and expectations
- Try to be positive and use humour as a part of your care strategy
- Offer information if the person is struggling
- Remember that changes to their behaviour and mood are not their fault – it’s the disease
In the middle stages:
Thinking and memory will continue to deteriorate. People in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will need more help with daily tasks. Assistance with dressing, bathing and toileting will eventually become necessary. Individuals may also wander from home and lose their way.
- Try to focus on the abilities that remain vs. those that are lost
- Avoid disagreeing, arguing or trying to convince the individual that what they believe is untrue or inaccurate
- Remember that the person is not intentionally being difficult
- Make time for yourself by using respite care options, including adult day programs, professional homecare services, other family members or friends, volunteer caregivers and friendly visiting programs
- Look into options for long term care
- Minimize the risk of wandering by using programs such as MedicAlert® Safely Home®
In later stages:
In later stages, the person living with dementia eventually becomes unable to communicate verbally or look after themselves. They experience severe impairment in memory, the loss of the ability to process new information and recognize time, place and people, and eventually they lose the ability to eat, walk and use the toilet without assistance. Care is required 24 hours a day.
- Nonverbal communication – smiles, hugs, holding hands – becomes increasingly important
- Brush their hair. Give a gentle massage to the hands, legs or feet. The person may find that stroking a pet or a soft fabric is calming
- Reassure and comfort the person
- Tell stories about past celebrations and enjoyable times; reminisce using photo albums or videos
- Play the person’s favourite music
- Reading to them can be comforting, even if they may not understand the words. The tone and rhythm of your voice is more important than what you’re saying
As a caregiver to a person living with dementia, it is normal to feel a variety of emotions including grief and loss throughout all stages of the disease. It’s important to seek practical help and emotional support, especially as the disease progresses and the person you are caring for becomes more dependent.
- Connect with the Alzheimer Society of Ontario at alzheimer.ca/on or call 1-800-879-4226 for help with respite care options, including adult day programs, professional homecare services, Meals on Wheels and more
- See also, medical interventions and end-of-life
- Tell family and friends what you need and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for their help
- For emotional support, connect with other young caregivers in our online peer support group or be part of the conversation in our online forum
*Source: Alzheimer Society of Canada
*Source: Alzheimer Society of Canada
(Note: source provided in content plan is not about dementia specifically)