Helpful Hints for the Family

The following suggestions are addressed to caregivers of dementia clients:

  1. The secret of success in handling the dementia client can be stated in one word: consistency, whatever you do, always do it the same way and, if possible, at the same time.
  2. Any change in the client’s performance should be noted. It may just be a bad day; however, if the behavior change persists for three or more days in a row, the client needs to be evaluated.
  3. Sainthood is not a requirement. When things do not go well, anger and distress on the part of the client and yourself are normal and acceptable.
  4. If the client wears dentures, be certain to check their fit. The dementia client may not be able to let you know if they are loose or rubbing.
  5. A dementia client may not be able to wait to find a bathroom once he or she has left home. The following three steps can ease this problem.
  • Do not leave home without having the client use the restroom.
  • When you arrive at your destination, locate the nearest bathroom.
  • If it has been more than two hours since he/she has used the bathroom, ask if they need to do so. If the responses are not reliable, do not ask but take them to the bathroom and say “I think it would be a good idea if you used the bathroom now.” Do not wait for them to use the bathroom.
  1. It is a good idea to carry a plastic bag with a change of clothing. If the client is occasionally incontinent, it is better to be prepared than to worry about what to do later.
  2. Panty hose are difficult for dementia clients to handle. Try ladies’ knee-highs or socks.
  3. Low-heeled or flat crepe-soled shoes help the unsteady client.

9.    The client should wear an identification bracelet that lists his or her name, address, phone number, and the fact that he/she has a disease that causes confusion and an inability to relay accurate information. A simple statement such as “memory loss” may be sufficient.

10.  For a successful shopping trip:

  • Pick a place that is accessible.
  • Try to do all of your shopping in one store.
  • Shop only when the store is not crowded.
  • Make a map of the store and identify the location of items you plan to buy.
  • List the items that you plan to buy according to the route you will take in the store. The objective is to have all the items in the cart after your first walk through the store.
  • Have the client push the cart (this helps prevent wandering).

11.  When choosing photographs of family and friends for identification purposes, be certain to use the latest picture. An old photograph can be confusing.

12.  Information regarding appointments or trips should not be given to the client more than one day in advance to prevent irritability.

13.  Do not try to reason with someone who by definition is unreasonable.

14.  Acknowledge when the client is confused, and then orient him or her.

15.  Lighting is important in maintaining good orientation. Twinkling lights, a dim atmosphere, reflecting mirrored lights, or candlelight can confuse the dementia client.

16.  If you would like to have a meal out but the client has difficulty with eating utensils, order finger food (for example, a sandwich and french fries,

17.  You do not have to shout to make yourself understood. Frequent repetition using simple sentences coupled with good eye contact will do a better job.

18.  Review the environment they live in. Steps may be a hazard and require gates; sharp objects and poisonous substances should be out of reach.


Distributed by:

Alzheimer’s Arkansas Programs and Services

201 Markham Center Drive

Little Rock AR 72205

Phone: (501)224-0021 / Fax: (501)227-6303 / Caregiver Assistance (501)913-1878



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