How To Care For Someone With Dementia

We’ve all seen pictures of a brain: That wrinkled, grayish-pink shape inside the head.

When scientists look inside the brain, they see it’s made of billions of cells that look like tiny trees with branches and roots. Scientists even call the brain a “forest.” Losing brainpower is like a forest fire. Dementia burns away branches and scorches the trunks.

Medicine is like spraying a little water on the fire: Slows it down, but can’t put it out. Every morning the news report announces how much more of the forest is gone. But your loved ones don’t believe anything is different. If you try to explain the syndrome, or Alzheimer's disease, or show them their limits, they likely will get angry.

How to care for someone with Dementia

You can’t make it better. There is no cure. So your aim is NOT to make them well but to make them happy...

Here are six overall goals for you as the caregiver of a dementia patient:

  • Loved

  • Comfortable

  • Clean

  • Calm

  • Safe

  • Engaged

Things you can do now:

Get help with caregiving. Then get more help. Do enough of the six goals yourself so your loved one knows you care. Let the caregiver do the rest.

For the future: "Is this my older self?"

We know more now about how to prevent dementia than a generation ago. To keep your brain working:

• Exercise

• Avoid salt and animal fats

• Have an active social life

• Learn something completely new, especially a foreign language!

Caregiving for dementia is an enormous, heart-wrenching task. It's a lot like the pre-flight safety instructions, you must prepare yourself first before helping others. If you're able to embrace a little bit of the unknown, or chaos, you'll do very well in caregiving.

To stay on top of the goals: