Amanda the OT
Holistic Strategies for Families of Persons Living with Dementia (PLWD)
Updated: May 26
Dementia is a condition that can be caused by several diseases which, over time, damage nerve cells and the brain, leading to a decline in cognitive function beyond what is expected from normal aging (World Health Organization [WHO], 2023). Functional cognition, including memory, thinking, orientation, language, judgment, and learning capacity, is commonly impacted. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, which accounts for about 60% of all cases. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia (WHO, 2023).
There is no cure for dementia, but there are treatments that can help to slow the progression of the disease and manage the symptoms. These treatments include medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Try the following suggestions to improve your loved one's quality of life while also decreasing your stress:
Find a PACE® Program in Your Neighborhood. Despite a high level of care needs, more than 90% of participants in programs of all-inclusive care for older adults (PACE®) can continue to live in their community. https://www.pace4you.org/
Educate yourself about dementia. The more you know about the disease, the better equipped you will be to care for your loved ones. Use available resources to help you learn more about dementia, including books, websites, and support groups.
Be patient and understanding. People with dementia can be forgetful, confused, and irritable. It is essential to be patient and understanding with them. Remember that they are not doing this on purpose.
Simplify your loved one's environment. As the disease progresses, your loved one may find it challenging to cope with a busy or chaotic environment. Try to simplify their environment by removing clutter and ensuring they have everything within reach.
Provide structure and routine. People with dementia thrive on structure and performance. Establish a daily routine for your loved one and stick to it as much as possible. This will help them to feel more secure and in control.
Encourage your loved one to stay active. Physical and mental activity can help to slow the progression of dementia. Encourage your loved one to stay active by walking, doing puzzles, or playing games.
Create a Memory box. Research supports the theory that personalized memory boxes can improve wayfinding skills (Feliciano & Jay, 2013).
Get help when you need it. Caring for someone with dementia can be overwhelming. Don't be afraid to ask for help from friends, family, or professional caregivers.
Feliciano, J., & Jay, A. (2013). Promoting room finding in dementia care: A component analysis of memory box interventions. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 21(3), 585–586. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/bar0000066
Tips for Living Life to its Fullest: Living with Alzheimer's Disease (2011). American Occupational Therapy Association. Retrieved on April 15, 2023. https://www.aota.org/~/media/Corporate/Files/AboutOT/consumers/Adults/Alzheimers/Alzheimers%20tip%20sheet%20(2).ashx
National PACE Association. (2023). Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE®) https://www.pace4you.org/
World Health Organization. (2023, March 15). Dementia. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia