Providing dementia care for elderly people

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Dementia is a condition with progressive decline of cognitive functioning. Often, people with dementia are experiencing deterioration of mental abilities, including learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, decision making, and attention. The decline could eventually affect a person’s cognitive functionality, hence, it should be managed more of a disability than a disease. As every individual is unique, the dementia care environment should be shaped accordingly to care recipients’ perspectives and needs. The objective of a proper dementia care is to respect, maintain, and enhance the personhood of those who suffers dementia.


Common behaviours

When a person start developing dementia, the brain is unable to control emotions and behaviours. As the surrounding (people and things) gets unfamiliar, it causes a lot of confusion and fear. Also, it can get worse when the person finds himself / herself unable to articulate or communicate thoughts, wants, and needs.

Elderly people with dementia, delirium and regrets, future eldercare

Often, it the attempt to communicate, the person may present unusual or problematic behaviours (Figure 1). Therefore, seeking to understand the message is important to calm them and minimise anxiety and conflict.

Dementia behaviours
Figure 1: Common behaviours of a dementia person

Managing behaviours in dementia care

As a caregiver for dementia patient, it is crucial to proactively address their needs by providing the comfort which includes physical, sensory, emotional, environmental, social, and spiritual well-being. Giving the right comfort promptly can avoid unnecessary behaviours such as hitting, crying, moaning, yelling, and feeling agitated or distressed.

When communicating with dementia patient, you can practise the following:

  • Smile and approach with pleasant tone and gentle touch.
  • Maintain eye contact at the same level.
  • Use simple words and speak slowly.
  • Use visual cues to help them understand.
  • Nod to signal agreement, acceptance, or acknowledgement.
  • Have patience and do not judge.
  • Avoid arguing, correcting, confronting and other negative interactions.

It is also helpful to preoccupy their attention by shifting their focus or engaging them in meaningful activities when they are in distressed behaviours. For example:

  • Offer food or drink.
  • Go outdoor for a walk.
  • Play familiar music or song.
  • Look at pictures and photos.
  • Engage in simple exercises.
  • Reminiscing their past events or experience.
  • Talk about something of their interest.

Roles of family members in dementia care

When a member of the family is diagnosed with dementia, it is common for you and other family members to experience denial, anger, and guilt. As time passed, you will learn to cope with it, accept it, and move on. However, if no one in the family is experienced in caring for person with dementia, it is safer to seek help from professionals (nursing care facilities) to avoid over involvement, burnout, or conflict between family members.


Caring for dementia patient may not necessary happen in nursing care facilities. If there is sufficient resources or care experience, some families also prefer to take care of them in a home setting. Be it in nursing care facilities or a family home, the involvement and sharing of responsibilities among the family members are important to ensure care recipient receive the best outcome.


Caregiver self-care

Being a caregiver, you are not only dealing with care recipient alone, often, you are also working with the family members on providing the right care. It is important to understand that the family is grieving, they may experience anger and frustration due to helplessness, they may have complaints and doubts, or unrealistic expectations. Managing care recipient and the family members at the same time can be stressful. 


As mentioned in our previous blog article on caregiver, you should be constantly watching and caring for your health and well-being. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and social circle, balanced diet, getting sufficient rest should not be neglected. If necessary, seek out for caregiver support groups or explore respite care if you are not coping well.


For more information on managing caregiver stress, please click here to read on.


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