Planning for dementia care can be stressful and overwhelming. Over time, dementia symptoms get worse and difficult behaviors often aggravate. The level of care your loved one needs will change as their disease progresses. Although you can’t change your parent’s diagnosis, you can take steps to keep them as healthy and safe as possible by planning ahead.
Learn about the symptoms and types of care needed in the early, middle, and late stages of dementia. Understanding what to expect can help you develop a dementia care plan that allows you to make thoughtful decisions before emergencies arise.
During the beginning stages of dementia, most people can function independently. Your loved one may be able to do many of the activities they’ve always done, such as driving, volunteering, and attending social events.
You may feel uncertain about how much support your parent needs in the early stages of dementia. While most people can perform simple activities of daily living (ADLs), more complex tasks — such as managing a budget or learning how to use new technology — may be more difficult. Memory problems and cognitive impairment may also become more persistent. Putting a dementia care plan in place can help anticipate issues that begin to arise.
You can support your parent at the beginning stages of dementia by taking certain steps:
Offer emotional support
Help your parent get organized
Proactively assess safety
Developing a dementia care plan becomes even more important as your loved one’s disease progresses. Middle-stage dementia symptoms worsen as damage to brain cells continues.
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Your parent with middle-stage dementia may need help with:
If you live with someone in the middle stages of dementia, you’ve likely taken on more responsibility for their care by now. At this stage, it may be time to evaluate whether you need additional support to help ensure the health and safety of your loved one. It’s also important to consider your own physical and mental health, the financial burdens that come with caregiving, and how it will affect your family, social, and work life.
You may want to consider care and support options such as:
If your loved one needs the support offered at a senior living facility, care providers will want to discuss your family member’s health, care needs, and goals. They will likely evaluate your relative’s mobility, cognitive health, and their ability to perform certain daily tasks.
This assessment will help staff at the community develop a dementia care plan to support your family member’s unique needs. This plan should also contain a thorough description of your loved one’s personal background.
Family members and caregivers may play a key role in helping fill any the gaps in a dementia care plan. They can provide valuable information on their loved one’s likes, dislikes, and preferences. They may also provide information about family and friends, past career, hobbies, or other critical information related to their family member’s sense of identity.
As you work with community staff to develop a plan for your loved one’s care, be sure to talk about your relative’s typical daily activities. Eventually, your family member may need a care provider’s assistance to organize their day, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead. Be sure to discuss structured and pleasant activities, as these may help to reduce agitation and other difficult dementia behaviors.
As dementia symptoms progress, your loved one’s dementia care plans should change. Check with care providers in the community to understand how often care plans are reviewed to ensure your loved one’s getting the care they need.
Late-stage dementia symptoms continue to worsen as the disease progresses. At this stage, it’s no longer safe to leave your loved one alone — they’ll need 24-hour assistance and supervision.
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In addition to full-time help with daily care, your parent may:
This is a difficult time for caregivers and family, who often need to make care decisions while also dealing with feelings of sadness and grief. Preserving quality of life is a key goal for those with end-stage dementia. During this time, hospice care can be helpful for families.
Hospice care can be provided at home, at a hospice facility, at a nursing home, at a hospital, or often at an assisted living or memory care community. It focuses on keeping your loved one with dementia as comfortable as possible while supporting the family.
If you need help making a plan for your loved one’s care, contact one of our Senior Living Advisors. They can help you think through your loved one’s care needs, your expectations for care, and the types of care available, to find the right solution for your family.
National Institute on Aging. “End-of-life care for people with dementia.” https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/end-life-care-people-dementia.
National Institute on Aging. “Tips for living alone with early-stage dementia.” https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/tips-living-alone-early-stage-dementia.
Alzheimer’s Association. “Daily Care Plan.” https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/daily-care/daily-care-plan
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