Tips for dementia patients caregivers, Part 2

Published 7:30 am Saturday, July 1, 2023

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First, we need to be aware that physical illness can cause behavior change. You should have a physician evaluate your loved one to see if a medical issue contributes to any changed behavior.

Vickie Wacaster, Patient and Hospice Advocate with Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice)

I hope the following tips will enhance the communication and relationship between individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and those caring for them, especially those in the first stages of the disease.

When dealing with anyone, it is very important and often challenging to stay aware that feelings may be expressed in the tone of our voice. Especially when caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s, try and be calm and reassuring, speak slowly and distinctly, and use simple words.

Remember, a person with Alzheimer’s is dealing with confusion, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, irritability, and often feelings of depression. Many caregivers find it less taxing/exhausting and more effective and compassionate to meet the Alzheimer’s person in their reality instead of expecting them to enter our reality. In other words, try not to argue with them but try redirecting them. Treat them with dignity and respect. Talk to the individual, not to the disease.

Keep in mind that people with Alzheimer’s like routine and consistency. If you do not already have a routine, perhaps settling into a consistent one will reassure your loved one. Keep a journal of daily activities and behaviors to help you figure out which strategies and routines were effective.

Below is a list of suggestions to help your loved one stay active and reinforce a sense of independence and dignity while interacting with family and friends.

  • Get them out of the house, go places, do things, and see people.
  • Look at and discuss newspaper or magazine stories, preferably with color pictures.
  • Cook together. Remember, safety comes first.
  • Daily exercise can help stave off the progression of Alzheimer’s and keep your loved one fit. It’s good for you, too.
  • Play brain games. Whether it is Sudoku or memory games, these mental challenges help key parts of the brain to be active. 
  • Share memories with old photos. These can be fun trips down memory lane and an excellent opportunity to document family history.
  • Listen to music. Music has an extraordinary ability to conjure up emotions and memories.
  • Sing. Individuals with Alzheimer’s usually love to sing. Singing is one of the last abilities to go. Sing often.

Below is a list of Do’s and Don’ts that have proven helpful.


  1. Face the care recipient directly, maintain eye contact while communicating, and attract their attention before beginning.
  2. Be at the care recipient’s eye level. If the person is standing, you should be standing; if the person is sitting, you need to be sitting.
  3. Orient the care recipient frequently. Provide frequent cues about who, what, when, where, and why.
  4. Provide continuity by staying on the same topic without changing focus too often. If the subject is going to change, provide orientation.
  5. Try to help the care recipient find the words that s/he may be “stuck” on trying to remember.
  6. Simplify your instructions to only one or two topics. Keep sentences short, simple, and direct. Repeat nouns rather than using pronouns.
  7. Try to ask easy questions. If there are choices, limit the number of options to two.
  8. Use pleasant facial expressions and tone of voice, pictures, hand signals, and pantomime to convey your message.
  9. Give the care recipient time to respond. Offer clues about how the person can answer the question if necessary.
  10. Remember that good communication is a two-way exchange. If the care recipient is having difficulty holding up their part of the conversation, try to help them to participate.


  1. Avoid pointing out errors. There is generally no need or benefit to correcting mistakes the care recipient makes. Pointing out errors may cause distress and agitation.
  2. Avoid arguing. Arguing won’t improve the care recipient’s ability to remember. It will only make the situation worse.
  3. Never invalidate emotions. Affirming the care recipient’s feelings is essential.
  4. Do not criticize, scold, or embarrass the care recipient.
  5. No matter how busy you are, take your time with your loved one.

What can we do for ourselves?: Stay mentally active. Get enough Vitamin C, B, E, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids; eat a heart-smart diet; keep iron within normal limits – prevent anemia, and lower weight, do not smoke; get enough sleep; keep stress levels down; stay socially active, treat depression, control diabetes, and protect your head from trauma.

“There is a fountain of youth: It’s in your mind, your talents, the creativity you brought into your life, and the lives of people you loved.” Sophia Loren

— Vickie Wacaster is a patient advocate with Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice).