To make everyday life easier for your loved one with a dementia diagnosis, their caregiver(s) and yourself, Dr. DeCarli suggests the following:
“Music that the person likes can be very calming,” he says. “In fact, the 2014 documentary Alive Inside shows how music can awaken and delight patients with dementia.”
“Find stories that help them reminisce,” says Dr. DeCarli. Remembering parts of their past lives can be very helpful—even soothing.
Organize activities—including exercise—so that they occur around the same time every day. This planning includes making sure they sleep mostly at night. “With dementia patients, their sleep-wake cycle drifts and they can be up all night,” says Dr. DeCarli.
“If someone gets really focused on something they don’t understand, redirect their attention by saying something like, ‘Hey, Dad, let’s go for a walk,’” says Dr. DeCarli. “If the person gets confused about where they are, say, ‘This is your house—you bought it 20 years ago.’” Say it factually—not critically.
“In earlier stages, having reminders like a big calendar can be really helpful,” says Dr. DeCarli. He recommends a gadget like Full Disclosure, a digital clock that displays the date, day of the week, time, whether it’s evening or afternoon, the month and year in big letters and numbers.
Family members of a person diagnosed with dementia can also make the house safer by disconnecting the stove, for instance, so that food cannot be left to boil over or burn, suggests Dr. DeCarli.