Everyday life can be difficult for people with dementia, their family, friends and caregivers. Here are some suggestions to make things easier and more comfortable.

1. Create a safe, dementia-friendly living space.

Having a structured space with memory aids will help your loved one feel safe and secure. Resources that display the day, date, daily activities and upcoming events in big numbers and letters will help make up for memory problems. Consider using a white board, a big calendar or a digital clock.  Reduce clutter to avoid falls and to reduce distraction and confusion. If necessary, unplug certain appliances to avoid risk of burns or other injuries.

2. Establish consistent structure with engaging activities.

Organize engaging activities that occur around the same time each day. Fun activities could include exercise, board games, puzzles, crossword puzzles, bingo or social events to encourage interaction. It’s also important to maintain a consistent sleep cycle by establishing routine wake-up and bedtimes.

3. Reminisce with stories or photographs.

People with dementia are more likely to retain older information than more recent memories. Involve your loved one by asking general questions about the person’s distant past rather than asking questions that rely on short-term memory. Encourage them to tell stories about their younger self or bring out a photo album to talk about old memories. Remembering the good old days and parts of their past can be very helpful and may be calming and soothing.

4. Listen to their favorite music together.

Listening to their favorite music can be very calming and can provide emotional and behavioral benefits like reducing stress, agitation, anxiety and depression. Music can also benefit caregivers by lightening the mood and providing a way to connect with loved ones who have dementia— especially those who have difficulty communicating. Music that the person listened to in the past can be a springboard for conversations about past memories and experiences.

5. When situations become difficult, distract or redirect in an affectionate, reassuring way. 

If your loved one becomes upset or agitated, try changing the subject or the environment. For example, ask them for help or suggest going for a walk. If you need to redirect them, avoid trying to convince them that they are wrong. State things factually, not critically. Remember to stay focused on the feelings they are demonstrating and respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort, support and reassurance. If you notice that these episodes seem to occur later in the day, make sure there is adequate lighting because poor lighting can increase confusion.

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