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Dementia Care Guide: Memory Loss Care Solutions

7 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
  • 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 conversationswith your relative 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 excessive caffeine or sugar, which can disrupt sleep. Alcohol can also increase confusion, so try to limit intake, or avoid altogether if possible.
  • 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, music therapy, and engagement stations to connect with residents.

Staff at memory care communities receive ongoing training to assist residents with specific memory needs and to help 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.

Talk with a Senior Living Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

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.


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.


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.

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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