Dementia Home Care: What Caregivers Should Know

Medically Reviewed By Eloise Theisen, RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC

Caring for someone with dementia at home can be challenging. However, you can take steps to make home care more manageable, including implementing safety measures, establishing a set routine, and helping the person wind down as the day goes on. Home care for dementia can be challenging. If you’re still finding it difficult to manage home care, contact a doctor for additional advice and resources.

This article discusses tips for dementia home care.

Make the home safe

An older adult hugging a younger adult
Tatiana Maksimova/Getty Images

People with dementia experience declines in cognitive and motor functions that make them less able Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to keep themselves safe at home. The following safety measures can allow the person to move around more freely and independently at home:

  • Remove access to dangerous substances: Remove or lock up chemicals and potentially hazardous kitchen tools. This includes cleaning and household products, such as paint thinner, laundry detergent, and tools like knives or scissors. Consider putting safety latches on cabinet doors.
  • Make stairs safer: Make sure stairs have guardrails, and put carpet or safety grip strips on stairs. Consider adding brightly colored tape to the edge of the steps so they are more visible.
  • Prevent tripping: Remove items that could cause tripping, such as small rugs and electrical cords. Make sure all rooms and outdoor areas have good lighting.
  • Secure outside doors: Keep doors leading to the outside locked if there’s a chance the person may wander out.
  • Prevent shower slips and falls: Invest in a shower chair to help prevent falls. It may also help to install a shower bar so the person has something sturdy to grab when standing up or moving around.

Keep a regular routine

Regular routines can help people with dementia keep up with their daily activities and responsibilities while reducing symptoms like agitation, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Here are some ways you can help the person establish and stick to routines:

  • Bathe, dress, and eat at the same time each day.
  • Allow the person adequate time to eat in a familiar place.
  • Consider using a notebook or calendar for keeping up with appointments or tasks.
  • Try to plan enjoyable activities around the same time each day.
  • Use an alarm clock, pill box, or other system for taking medications regularly.

Communicate calmly and respectfully

Communication can be challenging Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source for people with dementia. They may need help remembering things or finding the right word. At times, they may become frustrated, agitated, or angry.

Though it can be challenging for a caregiver, staying as calm and patient as possible can help.  

  • Speak calmly and clearly.
  • Actively listen to the person’s concerns and needs. Make eye contact and try not to interrupt.
  • Try to reassure them by restating what you hear. “What I hear you saying is …” or “It sounds like ….” This shows you understand their concerns and feelings.
  • When caretaking or helping with activities, gently give them step-by-step instructions as you go.
  • Allow the person to do as much as they can on their own to help them maintain some of their independence.

Learn more about how caregivers can cope with dementia mood swings.

Encourage physical activity

Though it may be challenging for people with dementia, staying active is good for Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source their mind and body. Here are some tips to encourage activity:

  • Focus on activities the person enjoys, such as:
    • cooking
    • baking
    • gardening
  • Start small and keep the activity limited to the person’s abilities.
  • Help get them started. Join in if you can, or find others who would be good company.
  • Play their favorite music during the activity to make it more enjoyable.
  • Plan a walk, gentle stretching, or some other form of physical activity together each day.

Help wind down at the end of the day

Some people with dementia Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source experience sundown syndrome, which is when specific symptoms appear or increase in severity in the late afternoon and evening. These symptoms may include:

The Alzheimer’s Association provides some tips that may help manage or prevent sundown syndrome:

  • Encourage plenty of rest, but limit daytime naps if the person has trouble sleeping at night.
  • Schedule more intensive activities and appointments in the morning or early afternoon.
  • Help maintain a regular daytime routine as much as possible. Encourage waking and going to bed at the same time each day.
  • Avoid bright light and stimulating activities, such as watching TV, in the evening.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, which may contribute to sleep problems.

Learn more about managing sundown syndrome.

​​Take care of yourself

Caring for someone with dementia can be demanding, and it’s important not to forget about your own needs in the process. There are steps you can take to maintain your mental and physical health:

  • Take regular breaks from caregiving. Ask friends or family to fill in while you do something fun or relaxing for yourself.
  • Get some sort of physical activity every day, such as a walk or yoga.
  • Eat nutritious foods to protect your health. Try to minimize fast food, processed and packaged foods, and alcohol.  
  • Try relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing or meditation, which can help with anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
  • Consider talking with a mental health professional to help you cope with the stress or burdens of caregiving.

Learn more about 10 mistakes Alzheimer’s disease caregivers might make.

Reach out for support

If you find you need a break from caregiving or some additional support, reach out to a doctor or mental health professional. They can recommend helpful resources, such as local support groups and home care specialists.

There are also online caregiving communities and resources that can help you provide care at home or locate additional support. Here are a few to get you started:

Summary

Dementia home care can be demanding, but there are steps you can take to make it easier for you and safer for the person you’re caring for. These steps include communicating calmly and respectfully, keeping a regular routine, and ensuring the home is as safe as possible.

If you need additional help or advice about caring for someone with dementia, contact a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.

Was this helpful?
0

Medical Reviewer: Eloise Theisen, RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC
Last Review Date: 2024 Jan 18
View All Dementia Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.