Do’s and Dont’s of Working With Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients

Most seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia can perform a task once they get started, but they may have trouble initiating or switching tasks. Their abilities fluctuate from day to day, day to night, person-to-person, and minute-to-minute. This makes it hard to exactly predict what they will or will not be able to do. It means we, as caregivers, need to be flexible and supportive rather than pointing out the errors and getting frustrated with the changing abilities.

Some Quick Do’s and Don’ts of working with people who have dementia:

  • Offer supportive, not confrontational communication
  • Emphasize what you want to have happen, NOT who’s the boss or who’s right
  • Recognize the value of mistakes or ‘UH OHs’ and turn them into ‘AH HAs!’
  • Provide short, simple information rather than asking questions
  • Offer concrete and clear options or choices rather than wide-open requests that require both word finding and decision-making to answer


If an Alzheimer’s patient forgets about a doctor’s appointment:  Don’t say, “How could you forget? I told you three times!” This is frustrating for the senior to hear and puts them on the defensive. Remember, caregiving is not about being right.

Do say, “I am sorry we didn’t get things worked out ahead of time for that appointment… (pause).. I thought I had said something about it, but I may not have. I will have to try to do a better job of making sure that happens, next time.” This helps break the communication barrier and helps the senior feel that you are on his/her side.

Alzheimer’s patients can’t remember new information but old memories are still intact.

Don’t tell your mother to meet you at Macy’s (at the mall) if it has recently moved there. She may go downtown to where Macy’s used to be!   Do take your mother to the mall or hire a caregiver to take her.


When you’re caring for a senior with dementia, it’s important to show them how to perform everyday tasks instead of telling them how to do something. It’s called show-and-tell.

Don’t pull your dad with Alzheimer’s out of his seat and start leading him to the restroom. To him, that’s forceful.  Do, instead, show him with your hands and verbally tell him to stand up. Then, place his hand in yours and walk along side of him (not in front of him). This shows him that you’re guiding him with acceptance, and not forcing him to do something.

A revolutionary program, called the Senior Gems™, has been developed to provide caregivers with the knowledge to deliver more effective care and create successful interactions with those afflicted with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

  • The Senior Gems™ program is a complete & thorough training covering:
  • Differences between normal aging and dementia
  • Care techniques for successful interactions
  • Creating positive environments for dementia clients
  • How to conduct meaningful daily activities
  • Improving health & safety… and more.

Senior Helpers is an In-Home Care provider that specializes in Alzheimer’s & dementia care. Our caregivers receive this valuable Senior Gems™  training to improve the care for your family.

Submitted by: Senior Helpers

Contact: (512) 388-4357