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How to Properly Deal with Dementia

That moment the doctor tells you, I’m sorry, but you have dementia. For both the individual affected and their loved ones, this can come as a shock. Unfortunately, there’s no set manual which suggest how to deal with dementia. Many individuals have overlapping symptoms, but each case is unique. Where do you go from here? How do you handle and cope with the symptoms of dementia?

How to Deal with Dementia

As mentioned, there’s no black and white manual for dealing with dementia. Depending on the cause of one’s symptoms, a different approach may be required. Within the earlier stages, individuals may still be fairly independent and this is the time to arrange for future arrangements regarding care, finances, and legal arrangements.

Once an individual reaches the mid-to-late stages, behavioral symptoms can be challenging. Although confusion and fear are common symptoms, individuals may also become violent and aggressive. Learning how to properly deal with these situations is very important. Although it’s tough to generalize cases of dementia and the required care, there are most certainly dos and don’ts.

The first thing you should do as a carer, is educate yourself regarding dementia, possible symptoms, and expected changes within one’s personality and behavior. This can help you prepare yourself so that you’re not shocked when something out of the ordinary happens. When you familiarize yourself with some of the most common possibilities, you can respond in a calmer, more effective manner.

Common Situations and How to Respond

When it comes to dementia, communication is a major barrier. It can be challenging to understand what it is that your loved one wants. Often, individuals will not want to do something which can lead to aggressive behavior. What you need to understand, is that your loved one is not being difficult on purpose.

Dementia causes changes in the brain and in most cases, individuals are acting out based on fear. Perhaps they’re in a new environment or they’re in pain and aren’t able to express themselves. The best possible thing you can do in these types of situations is examine the potential cause of their challenging behavior.

The absolute worst thing you can do is argue with them or use an aggressive tone back. You will not get anywhere and you could actually make the situation worse. As long as their safety isn’t at risk, approach the situation in a calm manner. In some cases, individuals respond best when you walk away for a moment, allowing them to calm down.

If you notice that your loved one is making errors in paying bills or balancing their checkbook, for instance, you should be encouraging and reduce their feelings of embarrassment. Handle situations in a way that will make them more willing to admit that they’re experiencing challenges and that perhaps your help would be beneficial.

Keep a journal of the most problematic behaviors and any possible underlying causes. Where were you when the behavior began? What types of distractions were around? What time of day was it? Keep records and then make an appointment with your loved one’s doctor.

If you find that you do not know how to handle the challenges you’re facing, seek assistance. Whether you join a support group, hire a professional caregiver, or increase your level of education regarding dementia, you are most certainly not alone.


Stevenson, Sarah. (2013). Dementia Care Dos and Don’ts: Dealing with Dementia Behavior Problems. A Place For Mom. Retrieved from http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2013-02-08-dealing-with-dementia-behavior/

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