The DO's and DON'Ts of Working with Persons with Demetia

Posted by Kristina Law on Feb 20, 2014

In Alzheimer's & Dementia, Main



Treat the person as an adult: Although the person with dementia is confused, she/he is an adult and deserves to be treated like one.

Be sensitive to the environment: It is calm? Quiet? Is the temperature comfortable? Is the lighting too bright? An uncomfortable environment may be the cause of catastrophic reactions.

Help the person to remain as independent as possible: It may be quicker to do things for him/her, but it is better for the person to so things for himself/herself.

Simplify Instructions: Give one direction at a time to avoid confusion.

Establish a familiar routine: Activities within the routine should be varies as appropriate.

Speak to the person as if he or she understands: Give the individual the benefit of the doubt. He or she may surprise you.

Respond: Respond to the person's feelings, not just the words expressed.

Be Flexible: Creativity helps when working with a person with dementia.

Learn as much about the person's past as you can: This will help you immensely in planning programs and when calming a person who is upset.

Provide Encouragement: Imagine not knowing who or where you are. You'd need encouragement, too.

Be patient: Give the person extra time to respond to questions or requests. Do not bombard the person with multiple questions or requests. Rushing the person usually winds up frustrating both of you.


Speak to the person as if he/she were a child: This can cause angry reactions and it indicates a lack of respect.

Scold the person: He/she is not intentionally making a making a mistake. Instead, quickly and gently point out the behavior and suggest alternatives.

Speak to the person in negatives: You will get a better response if you say, "come with me" than you will with, "you can't go there." Avoid negative phrases like, "don't do that" or "you're doing it the wrong way."

Startle the person: Approach the person from the front. Be sure he/she sees you before you begin to speak.

Assume that every person with dementia is the same: Dementia affects people and progresses differently in different people.

Be afraid to touch the person or give a hug once in a while: Express some affection. The person with dementia likely does not get enough of it.

Talk "around" a person with dementia, as if he/she isn't there: He/she may understand more than you think.

Give up: Never, never give up on someone!

To learn more about how to Do and Don't when it comes to dealing with a loved with dementia or Alzheimer's come to our support group once a month.


Written by Mindy Hill – Mindy is a Director of Sales & Marketing for iCare – Home Health & Hospice.