Dementia Care: What to Expect, How to Prepare

Dementia Care: What to Expect, How to Prepare

By Jeffrey Keller, Ph.D.

How do you know when it is time to seek help in caring for a loved one who has dementia?

While it is difficult to ask for help, it may be even more difficult to realize you might not be able to provide the care your loved one needs. Coming to this realization is particularly difficult for family members who want to do all they can for mom or dad. Family members are empowered to make the best care decisions when they know what to expect as dementia progresses and when and how to ask for help, before it’s too late.

What To Expect

Caring for an elderly individual who has dementia is considerably different than caring for an elderly individual who does not have dementia. As loved ones age, they often require assistance with multiple aspects of daily life. We are all familiar with helping an aging relative with upkeep of the house, assisting with daily chores and providing hands-on assistance in response to occasional health issues. Individuals with dementia have special needs which pose specific care challenges.

Individuals with dementia often:

  1. Have cognitive changes that make routine aspects of daily life impossible or dangerous. People with dementia can easily put themselves in dangerous situations within the home in ways that can significantly compromise their safety on a daily basis.
  2. Are not able to readily communicate, making it difficult for them to express when they are hungry, in pain, or confused.
  3. Develop unpredictable behavior that necessitate around-the-clock supervision in the home.
  4. Exhibit new behaviors, such as incontinence, hallucinations and falls, that can quickly surpass family members’ abilities and/or comfort level in providing care.

Almost all dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), are irreversible and progressive, and there are currently no medications to prevent or treat age-related dementias like AD. Unfortunately, the progressive nature of AD and related dementias do not provide warnings as to when a loved one will require more assistance. Family caregivers should formulate a plan to have resources in place for their loved one’s progressing care needs, knowing he or she eventually will be completely dependent on others for all aspects of daily living.

Being proactive and not reactive and having a viable plan of care is critical for effective dementia care. Family members should identify what is necessary to keep their loved one in the home for as long as is safe to do so, and then have care options available for when living at home is no longer safe or feasible for their loved one.

To learn about the life-enriching, personalized plans of care provided for those with memory loss at The Residence Memory Care Center, please visit online at,  or call 850-484-3529 to schedule a tour. The Residence is located at 10075 Hillview Road in Pensacola, Florida.

Dr. Jeffrey Keller is a renown aging and neurodegeneration expert and is the director of the Institute for Dementia Research & Prevention with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.