Caring for a loved one with dementia

Learning that a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia can change your life. The realities of the condition are difficult to fully understand at the beginning—for you and your loved one.

Allow time to process 

Giving yourselves time to process the diagnosis is the first step on what can become a long and difficult journey. Start by reassuring your loved one that they do not have to face their illness alone. In the early stages, you can provide support by:

  • Encouraging your loved one to stay involved in activities they enjoy
  • Finding new things you can do together
  • Connecting your loved one with others who have the same condition

Understand your role at each stage 

Most people in the early stage of dementia can still function independently. One of the biggest challenges for the caregiver in the early stage is not knowing how much assistance to provide. Your role may simply be to provide support and companionship—and to help plan for the future.

The middle stage requires more help with daily tasks and can last for many years.

As the disease progresses to the late stage, intensive, 24/7 care is often necessary and depending on your situation, it may be time to move your loved one to a dementia care facility.

Recognize your feelings 

As a caregiver, you may be experiencing many different emotions, including fear, anger, denial, anxiety, and even grief. Learning to understand your feelings can help you better meet the challenges you and your loved one both face.

Dementia is the one of the most prevalent conditions that requires the assistance of a family caregiver—and it has been shown to be one of the most demanding as well.

Many caregivers I work with still have to go to work and take care of their own kids,” observes Lori Betts, a registered nurse at BCBSRI. “But they also have to keep a close eye on the family member with dementia to make sure they don’t grab the car keys and head for the door or leave the stove on and walk away. It’s a lot for anyone to handle.”

Learn as much as you can 

The more you know about the disease, the more confident and prepared you will feel about providing care for your loved one with dementia. Connect with resources in your community early on to help you at every stage.

Links for caregivers 

Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Center

Alzheimer’s Association – Rhode Island Chapter

American Association of Retired Persons

Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs

Dementia Caregiving in the U.S.

Family Caregiver Alliance


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