Ask the Expert: Coping With Dementia as a Family Member

  Coping with Dementia
Andrea Holmberg, program coordinator for Sharp Senior Resource Centers, answers questions about how to cope, communicate and care for a family member facing dementia.

My family member might have dementia. What should I do?
Seek medical treatment for your family member so they receive a correct diagnosis and can be treated accordingly.

How can I help if they have been diagnosed with dementia?
Educate yourself about dementia so you can better cope and advocate for your loved one. Learn about the disease process, including prognosis, course of the disease and treatment options so that you understand what is happening.

I am unfamiliar with being a caregiver. How best can I support my family member?
Remember to take care of yourself and involve others in your caregiving plan. Ask for help when you need it. Maintain your own physical and emotional health with regular check-ups and healthy lifestyle choices.

My family member is having trouble communicating his or her needs. How best can I communicate with them?
Patience and understanding are essential in communicating when your loved one can’t express themselves as they once did. If your loved one continually repeats his or her sentences, distract and redirect by changing the subject, moving to another room or suggesting a new activity. Address your loved one’s emotional needs. Identify ways the person can maintain independence and dignity as much as possible. Moods and attitudes may change. Use nonverbal communication such as touch, soothing music/sounds and familiar aromas.

For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's senior health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about senior health, read the Senior Health News archive.


About the Expert
Andrea Holmberg is program coordinator for Sharp Senior Resource Centers.