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Dementia - daily care

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People who have dementia may have trouble with:

Help With Memory Loss

People who have early memory loss can give themselves reminders to help them function each day. Some of these reminders include:

Eating and Nutrition

Some people who have dementia may refuse food or not eat enough to stay healthy on their own.

In later stages of dementia, the person may have trouble chewing or swallowing. Talk with the person's health care provider about a proper diet. At some point, the person may need a diet of only liquid or soft foods, to prevent choking.

Tips for Talking To Someone With Dementia

Keep distractions and noise down:

To avoid surprising the person, try to make eye contact before touching or speaking to them.

Use simple words and sentences, and speak slowly. Speak in a quiet voice. Talking loudly, as if the person is hard of hearing, will not help. Repeat your words, if needed. Use names and places the person knows. Try not to use pronouns, such as "he," "she," and "them." This can confuse someone with dementia. Tell them when you are going to change the subject.

Talk to people who have dementia as adults. Don't make them feel as if they are children. And don't pretend to understand them if you do not.

Ask questions so they can answer with "yes" or "no." Give the person clear choices, and a visual cue, such as pointing to something, if possible. Don't give them too many options.

When giving instructions:

Try to get them talking about something they enjoy. Many people with dementia like to talk about the past, and many can remember the distant past better than recent events. Even if they remember something wrong, do not insist on correcting them.

Personal Grooming

People with dementia may need help with personal care and grooming.

Their bathroom should be nearby and easy to find. Consider leaving the bathroom door open, so they can see it. Suggest that they visit the bathroom several times a day.

Make sure their bathroom is warm. Get them undergarments made for urine or stool leakage. Make sure they are cleaned well after going to the bathroom. Be gentle when helping. Try to respect their dignity.

Make sure the bathroom is safe. Common safety devices are:

Do not let them use razors with blades. Electric razors are best for shaving. Remind the person to brush their teeth at least 2 times a day.

A person with dementia should have clothing that is easy to put on and take off.

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References

Alzheimer's Association website. Alzheimer's Association 2018 Dementia Care Practice Recommendations. alz.org/professionals/professional-providers/dementia_care_practice_recommendations. Accessed April 25, 2020.

Budson AE, Solomon PR. Life adjustments for memory loss, Alzheimer's disease, and dementia. In: Budson AE, Solomon PR, eds. Memory Loss, Alzheimer's Disease, and Dementia: A Practical Guide for Clinicians. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 25.

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Review Date: 4/25/2020  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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