Practical Advice on Caring For a Parent with Dementia

Updated: May 6, 2019


When a diagnosis of dementia is made, the physician is pivotal in providing the knowledge and resources that are needed to care for the patient. Because family members provide the majority of care for persons with dementia, they are an essential resource for the patient and the health care system. Making sure physicians who are overseeing medical care for your loved one understand your needs as a family caregiver and the challenges you face are essential aspects of caring for the person with dementia. A physician/caregiver/patient relationship is the recommended approach for meeting the needs of both you and your loved one.


Dementia Caregiving and the Health Care System

Physicians can provide a proactive approach to support by providing you with information about dealing with your loved one’s dementia symptoms, and linking you with resources (e.g., the Alzheimer’s Association). This can improve your capabilities as a caregiver and lead to more successful and enduring caregiving.

Make sure your loved ones’ physician:

  • Works collaboratively with their other physicians, nurses and/or social workers who are knowledgeable about symptom and behavioral management strategies;

  • Understands that you are physically, emotionally, and financially vulnerable;

  • Understands that to be an effective and knowledgeable caregiver, you often rely on physicians to provide information about dementia symptom management and the availability of support services.


5 Steps Caregivers can take to Prepare for Dementia Care Problems

Because dementia is a deteriorating condition that develops over an extended period of time, care problems can be anticipated and planned for well in advance. Use these tips to get started:

  1. The physician can help family members anticipate changes, plan for role transitions, and arrange for education and support that is needed to provide care.

  2. In the earliest stages of the disease, it is helpful for caregivers to identify a health care proxy for the person with dementia. Encourage the completion of a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care form (your physician should have copies available in their office.) The copy of completed forms becomes part of patient’s record. (See What is a Health Directive for Dementia? for a downloadable dementia-specific health care form.)

  3. Caregivers need to maintain their personal health and vitality to provide continuing care for the demented patient. (see Recognizing Caregiver Burnout and Dementia and Caregiving Challenges).

  4. Caregivers should become familiar early in the illness with adult day-care services and in-home or in-facility respite services.

  5. It is helpful for caregivers to visit and evaluate several long-term care facilities well ahead of the need for placement. Understand that institutionalization may be a normal progression in the process.


Information for this blog was cited from the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Medical Association.


Written by Author and Keynote Speaker Sue Salach-Cutler. Sue has a Master’s degree in Gerontology and has worked in the healthcare field for over 25 years.  She is the Author of “Along Comes Grandpa”, a caregiving resource guide, and the novel “If I Walked in Her Shoes”. Her programs and books provide the vital resources needed to help family caregivers as they maneuver through the caregiving journey. Find out more about her books and programs here: CaregiverLife.com.  Adapted from: https://theworkingcaregiver.org


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