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Coping strategies for people with dementia

Written by Julie Potyraj

In the final part of a four-part series on caregiving and dementia, Julie Potyraj, community manager for the online master of public health at The George Washington University, explores multiple coping strategies for people with dementia. 

Dementia brings about an array of physical, cognitive, and emotional changes. Each person will find his or her own unique way of coping as the disease progresses through its various stages. Below are several types of coping strategies that can help people with dementia maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible.

Practical strategies. The cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can make it difficult for a person to store and recall information. Memory problems can be addressed by using sticky notes, calendars, and other tools to remind the person of certain tasks like taking medication. Assistive technology devices like smartphones are also helpful. Establishing a regular routine can make it easier for a person with dementia to recall patterns of usual activity during the day.

Health strategies. Good nutrition can’t cure dementia, but it can lessen the intensity of some symptoms while contributing to an overall feeling of well-being. People with dementia should focus on eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein; limit sugar, salt, and saturated fat intake; and drink plenty of water. Regular exercise is also beneficial.

Emotional strategies. People with dementia often go through a grieving process in which they mourn the loss of the person they once were. Using humor and positivity and practicing living “in the moment” can help people weather the dementia storm.

Social strategies. Staying socially engaged can help people with dementia–as it helps older adults more generally–maintain their brain vitality. In fact, studies have shown that involvement in group activities and strong personal relationships can have a protective effect against the disease.

While caring for a loved one with dementia, caregivers must also consider developing their own coping strategies in order to prevent burnout. These might include joining a support group, practicing meditation or yoga, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep. People who look after someone with dementia should also reach out to friends, family, and volunteer organizations to ask for help with the daily stress of caregiving.

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