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Dementia Care Guide: Memory Loss Care Solutions

8 minute readLast updated March 2, 2021
Written by Angelike Gaunt

Caring for someone with dementia can be daunting. As a caregiver, you may feel sad and frustrated as you realize your loved one is unable to recognize those closest to them or is forgetting cherished memories. You may also be trying to figure out how to handle practical dementia care challenges, such as keeping your loved one safe as their disease progresses.

You’re not alone — more than 16 million Americans provide unpaid dementia elderly care for family and friends each year, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Many family caregivers choose to support a relative with dementia at home. But as their disease progresses, caring for someone with dementia alone may become difficult to manage. If a time comes when you need help caring for your elderly loved one, help is available. Read on to understand how to get help taking care of an elderly relative with dementia, and what resources and care options are available.

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Difficult dementia behaviors: what to expect when caring for someone with dementia

Personality and memory changes can pose some of the greatest challenges in dementia elderly care. If you’re considering caring for someone with dementia, it’s important to understand what to expect and track dementia symptoms.

People with dementia may experience physical symptoms, including:

  • Agitation
  • Repetitive actions or speech
  • Dementia wandering
  • Sleep problems, insomnia, or sundown syndrome
  • Appetite concerns, or inability to eat independently
  • Incontinence

Some mental symptoms of cognitive decline and difficult dementia behaviors include:

  • Confusion
  • Poor judgment
  • Paranoia
  • Manipulation
  • Getting lost on familiar routes
  • Being late to, or skipping events
  • Avoiding activities they previously enjoyed

Preventing or minimizing dementia behaviors through dementia elderly care

Although many challenging dementia behaviors can’t be eliminated, the following strategies may help prevent or minimize them when caring for someone with dementia.

  • Learn how to communicate better with your loved one with dementia
    Understanding different techniques to improve conversations and utilizing new technologies, like dementia care apps, with your senior loved one may strengthen your bond and support day-to-day interactions.
  • Establish and keep a routine
    New situations and environments can increase agitation and feelings of anxiety in people with dementia. While taking care of an elderly parent with dementia, minimize surprises and avoid scheduling multiple major activities each day. Focus on calming dementia-friendly activities at home for entertainment.
  • Create a calm, soothing environment
    Environmental changes can increase agitation and make your loved one feel disoriented and stressed. Reducing loud noises and clutter, avoiding moving furniture, and keeping familiar objects around can help when caring for someone with dementia.
  • Keep your loved one active
    Physical activity can help prevent restlessness, dementia wandering, and aggressive behavior. It can also help your loved one with dementia sleep better at night. Regular walks, dancing, or chair exercises may be good options to try.
  • Monitor diet
    Avoid processed sugar, stick to real honey and maple syrup. Only drink caffeine in the early part of the day to not disrupt sleep. Alcohol can also increase confusion, so try to limit intake, or avoid altogether if possible. Overall, a healthy diet tailored to your loved one has been clinically shown to slow down cognitive decline.
  • Promote connection
    Talk to your loved one about the past. Many people with dementia can remember things from decades ago, even if they can’t recall a conversation you just had. Having these conversations with your parent can help soothe them and strengthen your bond.
  • Provide a safe environment
    As your loved one’s dementia progresses, you may be worried about their safety. If you’re concerned about dementia and wandering, certain GPS tracking devicesdesigned for people with dementia can help you prevent dangerous situations and give you peace of mind knowing where your parent is at all times.

Dementia elder care options

How do you care for an elderly person with dementia as their disease progresses? Your parent’s symptoms and care needs will likely change over time. In the later stages, caring for someone with dementia at home without help may be difficult or impossible. Whether you just need a short break to focus on your well-being or are looking for more permanent support, find the right level of care for your loved one.

Dementia home care

If you choose to care for someone with dementia at home, it’s important to ensure your home is safe. Medication and dangerous objects, such as kitchen knives, should be safely locked away. You may also need to install additional locks to prevent wandering, and night-lights to reduce disorientation at night.

If you need additional support taking care of the elderly with dementia, in-home care services offer different levels of care depending on your relative’s needs. In-home care services for dementia may include:

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  • Companionship
  • Help with transportation to appointments
  • Meal preparation
  • Cleaning
  • Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, and grooming

Respite care for dementia

Caring for someone with dementia can lead to serious mental and physical caregiver health risks. Respite care, also called short-term care, offers caregivers a well-deserved break. While your loved one receives respite care, you can spend time with other friends and family, focus on work, vacation, or focus on your own health and well-being.

Respite care offers help with ADLs and medication management in a safe environment. Many volunteer organizations, support groups, and area resources offer a form of dementia elderly care, which can last anywhere from several days to a month or more. Some senior living communities specializing in memory care also provide dementia-specific respite care. This can be a good way to try out a senior living community before making a permanent move.

Memory care for dementia

Memory care communities are tailored to the specific needs of people with dementia. These facilities provide a safe environment uniquely designed to promote familiarity, reduce confusion, and prevent wandering. They also offer activities and therapies, like sensory stimulation, reminiscence therapy, pet therapy, or music therapy. Engagement stations at these facilities aim to connect residents with their interests.

Staff at memory care communities receive ongoing training in dementia care to better assist residents with their specialized needs. Training staff in memory care techniques helps to minimize many of the difficult behaviors associated with dementia.

Taking care of elderly residents with dementia is the primary focus of memory care communities. That’s why they feature lower staff-to-resident ratios than other senior living options, 24-hour supervised care, and secured exits.

Nursing homes for dementia

Nursing homes offer 24-hour medical assistance and supervision, along with room and board. Nursing home residents usually suffer from seriously debilitating conditions and may be bedridden, wheelchair-bound, or in need of daily skilled nursing care. A doctor must prescribe this type of care before your loved one can move into a nursing home. Nursing homes also offer help with ADLs, as well as planned activities.

Since nursing homes are designed for people with severe medical conditions, they may or may not have training or programs geared toward dementia care. Lower staff-to-resident ratios limit person-centered care for dementia, and many therapies focus on the physical aspects of aging, rather than cognition. If your loved one’s medical concerns necessitate a nursing home, ask “how do you care for an elderly person with dementia?” for more information about their experience with and resources for residents experiencing cognitive decline.

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If you’re not sure what type of care would be best for your loved one with dementia, talk to one of our free Senior Living Advisors. They can help you think through your parent’s needs, your expectations for care, and the types of care available to find the right solution for your family.

What families are saying about memory care facilities

Memory care reviews from residents and families

Arden Courts A ProMedica Memory Care Community in San Antonio

The Arden Court's team is exceptional. They made the transition as smooth as it could be for my grandma & the rest of my family. My grandma can wander where she pleases in a safe environment I can't thank the Activity Staff enough for Send me videos of my grandma dancing with them. It meant the...
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MorningStar of Rio Rancho

I would advise you watch and determine the facility and staff and do not rely on reports of their loved ones. Staff is conscientious, caring and professional. Facility is clean, nurturing and well equipped. It must always be remembered those clients in residence are confused, scared and/or...
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Pacifica Senior Living Spring Valley

They are wonderful. [name removed] and [name removed] are great. Their CNAs are all very nice and helpful. Plus they communicate with me very well on my mom's ups and downs. They really have taking a load off of me.


Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving. “Caregiver’s guide to understanding dementia behaviors.” https://www.caregiver.org/caregivers-guide-understanding-dementia-behaviors.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.” https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/alzheimer.htm.

HelpGuide. “Alzheimer’s and dementia behavior management.” https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/alzheimers-behavior-management.htm.

Table of Contents

Difficult dementia behaviors: what to expect when caring for someone with dementia

Preventing or minimizing dementia behaviors through dementia elderly careDementia elder care options


Meet the Author
Angelike Gaunt

Angelike Gaunt is the Director of Editorial Content Strategy at A Place for Mom. She’s developed health content for consumers and medical professionals at major health care organizations, including Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the University of Kansas Health System. She’s passionate about developing accessible content to simplify complex health topics.

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