A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia is life-changing, both for the person experiencing symptoms and their family caregiver. As symptoms progress, it makes it more difficult for your loved ones to remember things, communicate, think clearly and take care of themselves.

That’s why our experts at Artis Senior Living put together this guide on what to expect from a loved one with dementia, and five tips on how to handle certain behaviors and limitations as their condition progresses.

Bathing Tips for Loved Ones

Bathing can be challenging for several reasons other than memory loss. The person with dementia may be uncomfortable receiving help with such an intimate activity, or have developed a fear of falling in the water or being cold. To avoid feeling anxious, it’s common for many seniors with dementia to outright refuse to bathe or lie about showering.

Safety and comfort are the most important aspects for bathing activities for seniors with dementia. If you don’t plan on moving your loved one to Memory Care in a senior living community, install grab bars, non skid mats, a shower bench, and a handheld showerhead to make your job easier and your family member more comfortable.

Experts recommend making sure the bathroom is warm, getting your supplies ready ahead of time, and using situations like changing out of pajamas in the morning for an easier transition into bathing. You might also want to consider a towel warmer or having a fresh towel out of the dryer to wrap them in when they’re finished.

How to Approach Eating

Dementia affects the area of the brain that controls swallowing, which may cause some seniors in advanced stages to chew continuously, have trouble holding food in their mouth, or cough or choke after eating and drinking. Also known as dysphagia, difficulty swallowing can lead to weight loss, poor nutrition and dehydration.

It’s important to avoid serving food items that are difficult to chew. Your family member may leave items like hard vegetables, tough meat or dry cookies on their plate, even though they want to eat them. Eating may take longer as symptoms progress. Be sure to give them plenty of time to eat, so they don’t feel rushed and can enjoy their meal.

Respecting the preferences of people with dementia will encourage them to eat. For instance, your loved one may be accustomed to certain flavors, portion sizes, and eating at certain times of day. At Artis Senior Living, all meals are served family-style, and residents use their senses of sight and smell to truly experience their options and make personal choices based on their individual preferences.

Tips for A Loved One Who Wanders

According to the Administration of Aging, 3 in 5 people with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia will wander. This symptom is dangerous, because it can lead to falls and fall-related injuries, as well as your loved one getting lost.

Wandering can occur for several reasons. Here are just a few:

Along with learning your loved one’s physical cues for signaling they’re uncomfortable or need to use the bathroom, many experts recommend plenty of physical activity for seniors with dementia. This can help regulate their circadian rhythm, improve their physical and mental health, and slow down the progression of symptoms, including wandering.

Try these ways to get your loved one moving:

Make sure your loved one is supervised during all activities, and always talk to their doctor before they begin a new physical fitness routine. That way you’re choosing activities they enjoy and can complete.

Handling Repetitive Behavior

As the symptoms of dementia progress, it increasingly affects the ability to communicate, which can lead to repetitive behavior movements, gestures, speech, or other actions. Some may hyper-focus on repetitive tasks, like folding clothes or arranging silverware, and others may make continual tapping noises with their fingers, hands or feet.

The most common form of repetition is asking the same questions over and over, which can be frustrating for their family caregiver. Repetitive questions often occur because of anxiety and worry, combined with disorientation and forgetfulness.

It’s critical to stay calm and keep an open mind with your loved one. Look at these tips to handle repetition:

Try to handle repetitions with as much empathy as possible. It’s easy to become frustrated with your loved one by the sound of relentless tapping or repeated questions. If you feel overwhelmed by responsibilities of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, it might be time to consider support programs for caregivers, or moving your family member to a Memory Care community, such as an Artis Senior Living community.

Dealing with Agitation

Frustration with the progression of symptoms, a change in environment, physical discomfort or just having a bad day can lead to agitation and aggression in people with dementia. It’s important to remember your loved one is experiencing a big shift in their reality.

Embracing their new situation and handling difficult behaviors calmly can help ease feelings of anxiety, anger, aggression, and agitation.

Music, aromatherapy, pet therapy, and a maintained routine are all ways to keep your loved one feeling relaxed. However, if their aggression and agitation are a serious disruption to your personal, family, and work life, it might be to talk to your loved one’s doctor about transitioning to Memory Care.

Specialized communities, like Artis , are excellent options for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In addition to continual support by expert care partners, they offer a variety of engaging activities and programs in a relaxed and safe environment.