Being a caregiver is not an easy task, especially when it comes to the well-being of a patient with dementia.

In this article you will find advice on how to help a person with dementia through a series of practical and useful tips that we can apply at home. The aim is to significantly reduce the level of burnout for people caring for a person with dementia.

What is dementia?

Before we go on to see how to help a person with dementia, it is important to know what the disease is.

Dementia is the gradual deterioration of the cognitive functions of the brain , which involves complications of memory, thought, and behavior. Depending on the level and type of dementia, the subject may present a total or partial loss of these cognitive functions, or even have intermittent episodes in which he or she has moments of lucidity interspersed with moments of memory loss or disconnection from reality.

Main types of dementia

There are several types of dementia, and depending on each one of them the subject may present different symptoms. Let’s see briefly what the most common types of dementia are, and what some of their main characteristics are.

1. Alzheimer’s Dementia

This is the most common type among dementias, and is characterized by the fact that the number of neurons begins to reduce gradually causing a loss of brain volume , the first warning signs are memory loss, and difficulty in solving everyday problems.

2. Lewy Body Dementia

It accounts for approximately 10-15 % of all cases, and is characterised by small and abnormal deposits of a protein (alpha-synuclein) that generates disruption between the neuronal (synapse) connections. The main symptoms are memory, language, and reasoning problems.

3. Vascular dementia

This type of dementia results from vascular complications. Specifically, occurs when blood flow to the brain is reduced by blockages in the blood vessels. For example, during a stroke (CVA). Symptoms depend on the area of the brain where the damage occurs.

How do you help a person with dementia?

In these lines we will see some effective ways to help someone with dementia, and to promote their quality of life.

1. Communicating with the doctor

The main thing will be that we maintain a good channel of communication with the doctor who is treating the person with dementia, and that we consult him/her on any specific questions we may have regarding his/her behaviour and care. It is important to remember that not all cases are the same.

2. Help the subject to remain calm

Patients with dementia are usually quite likely to lose their temper, due to the confusion and memory loss they experience. We need to understand their situation in an empathic way, without being affected by the state of stress they present, and help them to remain calm.

3. Simplify routines

A quite effective way to improve the quality of life and decrease the levels of frustration in people with some kind of dementia is to contribute to the simplification of their daily routines . For example, daily cleaning, meals, etc. The idea is to look for new ways of doing this, through which the subjects feel less stressed.

It helps to have complete changes of clothes for each day, so that the person does not have to make too much effort in selecting their outfits. With regard to meals, it is useful to establish a relationship between each meal and something else (for example, a sound or melody), so that the person has a clear reference that it is time to eat.

4. Maintain a frequent dialogue

The dialogue with people helps to keep their declarative memory active , especially if we talk to the subject about anecdotes in which he has participated. It is important that we maintain frequent communication with the person to avoid feelings of abandonment; we can establish schedules for this.

5. Use memory games

There is a great variety of these games, which contribute to decrease the intensity of cognitive impairment of people with dementia . Of course, the results depend on the degree of affection of the subject, but they are always a good alternative for prolonging the quality of life of the patients.

6. Having familiar objects nearby

Placing familiar objects in the subject’s environment helps to keep him or her evoking memories , which is also useful in reducing cognitive impairment. In addition, it helps to decrease the symptoms related to confusion.

7. Reporting on current events

Helping the subject to be informed about current events is a way to keep him/her focused on the present and avoid being confused about the time in which he/she is .

8. Regular walks

Accompanying therapeutic walks helps the person with dementia to keep in touch with their surroundings, and contributes greatly to improving communication skills that are often affected in people with this neurological disorder.

9. Music therapy

The music therapy sessions relax and help stimulate the cognitive processes of the patients , contributing significantly to their mental stability. When we are caring for a person with dementia, we should try to involve them in activities that help them to stay calm.

Bibliographic references:

  • Feldman, Robert S. (2005). Psychology with applications in Spanish-speaking countries. Mexico: McGraw Hill.
  • Santos, J.L. ; García, L.I. ; Calderón, M.A. ; Sanz, L.J.; de los Ríos, P.; Izquierdo, S.; Román, P.; Hernangómez, L.; Navas, E.; Ladrón, A and Álvarez-Cienfuegos, L. (2012). Clinical Psychology. Manual CEDE de Preparación PIR, 02. CEDE. Madrid.