Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

Dementia symptoms and behavior problems will progress over time. Caregivers might try the following suggestions:

  • Enhance communication. When talking with your loved one, maintain eye contact. Speak slowly in simple sentences, and don't rush the response. Present one idea or instruction at a time. Use gestures and cues, such as pointing to objects.
  • Encourage exercise. Exercise benefits everyone, including people with dementia. The main benefits of exercise include improved strength and cardiovascular health. There is growing evidence that exercise also protects the brain from dementia, especially when combined with a healthy diet and treatment for risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

    Some research also shows physical activity might slow the progression of impaired thinking in people with Alzheimer's disease. And it can lessen symptoms of depression.

  • Encourage activity. Plan activities the person with dementia enjoys and can do. Dancing, painting, gardening, cooking, singing and others can be fun, can help you connect with your loved one, and can help your loved one focus on what he or she can still do.
  • Establish a nighttime ritual. Behavior is often worse at night. Try to establish going-to-bed rituals that are calming and away from the noise of television, meal cleanup and active family members. Leave nightlights on in the bedroom, hall and bathroom to prevent disorientation.

    Limiting caffeine, discouraging napping and offering opportunities for exercise during the day might ease nighttime restlessness.

  • Encourage keeping a calendar. A calendar might help your loved one remember upcoming events, daily activities and medication schedules. Consider sharing a calendar with your loved one.
  • Plan for the future. Develop a plan with your loved one while he or she is able to participate that identifies goals for future care. Support groups, legal advisers, family members and others might be able to help.

    You'll need to consider financial and legal issues, safety and daily living concerns, and long-term care options.

Coping and support

Receiving a diagnosis of dementia can be devastating. Many details need to be considered to ensure that you and those around you are as prepared as possible for dealing with a condition that's unpredictable and progressive.

Care and support for the person with the disease

Here are some suggestions you can try to help yourself cope with the disease:

  • Learn as much as you can about memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Write about your feelings in a journal.
  • Join a local support group.
  • Get individual or family counseling.
  • Talk to a member of your spiritual community or another person who can help you with your spiritual needs.
  • Stay active and involved, volunteer, exercise, and participate in activities for people with memory loss.
  • Spend time with friends and family.
  • Participate in an online community of people who are having similar experiences.
  • Find new ways to express yourself, such as through painting, singing or writing.
  • Delegate help with decision-making to someone you trust.

Helping someone with dementia

You can help a person cope with the disease by listening, reassuring the person that he or she still can enjoy life, being supportive and positive, and doing your best to help the person retain dignity and self-respect.

Caregiver support

Providing care for someone with dementia is physically and emotionally demanding. Feelings of anger and guilt, frustration and discouragement, worry, grief, and social isolation are common. If you're a caregiver for someone with dementia:

  • Learn as much about the disease as you can and participate in caregiver education programs
  • Find out about supportive services in your community, such as respite care or adult care, which can give you a break from caregiving at scheduled times during the week
  • Ask friends or other family members for help
  • Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual health
  • Ask questions of doctors, social workers and others involved in the care of your loved one
  • Join a support group

Prevention

There's no sure way to prevent dementia, but there are steps you can take that might help. More research is needed, but it might be beneficial to do the following:

  • Keep your mind active. Mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, solving puzzles and playing word games, and memory training might delay the onset of dementia and decrease its effects.
  • Be physically and socially active. Physical activity and social interaction might delay the onset of dementia and reduce its symptoms. Move more and aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week.
  • Quit smoking. Some studies have shown smoking in middle age and beyond may increase your risk of dementia and blood vessel (vascular) conditions. Quitting smoking might reduce your risk and will improve your health.
  • Get enough vitamin D. Research suggests that people with low levels of vitamin D in their blood are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. You can get vitamin D through certain foods, supplements and sun exposure.

    More study is needed before an increase in vitamin D intake is recommended for preventing dementia, but it's a good idea to make sure you get adequate vitamin D.

  • Lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure might lead to a higher risk of some types of dementia. More research is needed to determine whether treating high blood pressure may reduce the risk of dementia.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet is important for many reasons, but a diet such as the Mediterranean diet — rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in certain fish and nuts — might promote health and lower your risk of developing dementia.