Home Care for a Person with Senile Dementia

As we age, some of our abilities decline, affecting physical and mental functioning. Caring for a person with senile dementia is a challenge.
Home Care for a Person with Senile Dementia
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 29 September, 2022

A person with senile dementia requires a lot of attention and care at home. Because of this, family members can sometimes feel overwhelmed or confused.

There are so many questions and issues to address, such as medication, feeding, mobility, and bath time, for example.

What if they don’t want to eat or they have a fall? What to do if he doesn’t sleep?

If you have a parent or other family member in this situation, this article provides tips and recommendations for caring for the person with senile dementia, to help them as much as possible. This situation is also difficult for the patient.

Senile dementia: causes and symptoms

Although the term senile dementia is no longer used in medicine, it’s still in common usage. It refers to a condition of general cognitive decline associated with aging.

According to research (article in Spanish) it’s more common for symptoms to begin at age 65. Some risk factors may condition its onset, such as vitamin deficiency, cardiovascular or nervous system problems, and other chronic diseases.

There are some signs that indicate that the person is in this situation:

If you perceive that several of these signs are present in an elderly relative, it’s advisable to see a doctor for a general evaluation.

Home care for a person with senile dementia

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, there are several actions that need to be taken, with a view to establishing a home care routine for a person with senile dementia. This is done both to prevent accidents and health problems, as well as to ensure a good quality of life.

In this regard, you should start to help with some daily routines, but try to maintain a balance in terms of autonomy, without affecting the person’s self-esteem. In this regard, we’d like to give you some recommendations.

Senile dementia.
The diagnosis should be made by a professional, certifying that there is a condition of cognitive impairment.

Inform people close to them

In order to seek collaboration and find acceptance and understanding, you should inform family and friends about the situation, as they could be affected. While it may be embarrassing for some people to admit that a family member has a diagnosis of senile dementia, it’s better to talk and prevent potential problems.

Adapt the house

Although older adults may be reluctant to change certain areas in the homes they have lived in all their lives, it’s often necessary.

  • Doors and windows that are difficult to open need to be fixed, as, with age, muscle strength is lost.
  • Another important point: if you live in an apartment with balconies, you should close or block them.

Habits, schedules, and activities

A structured activity schedule is desirable for a variety of reasons. This helps the older person to look after themselves and concentrate, keeping them focused. Ideally, however, it’s best to avoid changing their routine too much, as it may upset them.

What should be done is to post a notice board in a visible place, so that they remember what they have to do. For example, taking medicines at certain times or watering the plants.

This is essential in the case of older adults who live alone.

A familiar environment

Something that helps them a lot is to have family photos on the walls. In cases of forgetfulness when they wake up, familiar faces may ease their anxiety. Likewise, they should be allowed to keep their objects, such as a favorite chair.

The getting up routine

For those who don’t live alone and are already having difficulty fending for themselves, home care for a person with senile dementia can include assistance with getting up.

If mobility is limited, a cane, crutches, or wheelchair should be within reach. If they’re able to get up on their own, it will be helpful for them to have a hospital bed so that they don’t have to exert so much effort. If this isn’t possible, then some sort of bar or rail would be beneficial.

You can also have a communication device near their bed so you can hear them if they need help; these work in the same way as the audio monitors used with infants.

Moving around

If the person doesn’t have mobility problems and moves around the house, it’s a good idea to keep the corridors free of obstacles, as they may not see them or pay attention to them.

Also, some lights should be left on, in case they get up at night. Remember that hip fractures in older adults are quite common.

Bathing routine

The person may also need help when bathing. The bathroom is another area where falls can often occur. This may require placing grab bars, rubber mats and even eliminating steps.

Diet

Feeding is one of the most complicated aspects of home care for people with senile dementia. On the one hand, some older adults experience a loss of appetite; others, when living alone, forget to eat or drink water.

In some cases, dehydration can occur. In this regard, some research indicates that the risk of malnutrition is high in this age group.

Because of this, it’s suggested to establish a schedule of supervised meals to ensure that they eat and that they’re well nourished and hydrated.

Medication

Caring for the person with senile dementia requires special attention to medication, especially in those who suffer from certain conditions and are under treatment. If they live alone, mechanisms should be in place to remind them to take medication at certain times, as well as how much they need to take.

Similarly, it’s recommended to provide them with a little tablet case that you can fill with each day’s tablets, and, in this way, they won’t have access to the bottles or packets of medication, thus reducing the risk of overdose.

Dangerous products and items

Just as with children, with some older adults who have advanced cognitive impairment, precautions need to be taken with regard to dangerous items. This includes knives, scissors, razors, and other sharp items.

Similarly with lighters and matches. Cleaning products containing toxic substances should also be stored in a safe place.

Physical activity

It’s good to take regular walks, if their condition and the weather permit. Preferably, they should do so accompanied by a caregiver. This is beneficial for both their health and cognitive functioning.

Socialization

The person with senile dementia shouldn’t isolate themselves, as this contributes to further mental deterioration. In this regard, it’s good to talk to them, participate in family activities, and have friends visit them.

A painting class.
Participation in workshops and meeting with other people slows cognitive decline, stimulating their social lives.

Going out alone

Notwithstanding the above recommendations, if the patient isn’t able to go out alone, because of mobility or visual problems, they should be accompanied to prevent them from having an accident or even getting lost.

Stimulating hobbies

Some activities can be positive ways of stimulating cognitive functioning, as well as exercising memory and concentration. For example, certain games help to stimulate the mind, such as:

  • Chess
  • Checkers
  • Sudoku
  • Card games
  • Mandalas
  • Puzzles
  • Crossword puzzles

Managing aggressive behavior

It’s possible that, at times, the patient may show difficult, aggressive, or irascible behavior. Don’t lose your temper. Avoid responding angrily.

Remember that this is something you’ll see frequently if you’re caring for a person with senile dementia. Regarding the management of this type of behavior, here are some recommendations:

  • Don’t make abrupt changes in their routine
  • Try to identify what is bothering or scaring them
  • When they start to argue or get angry, try to direct their attention to another topic
  • Above all, speak softly, avoid confrontation, and don’t get upset. It’s nothing personal.

Other general safety measures

If the person lives alone, he or she should have a telephone that’s easy to operate, where the most important numbers are stored. As far as possible, smoke detection systems should be installed. It’s also advisable to remove locks from bathrooms and bedrooms to prevent the person from getting locked in.

Ask for professional help

If episodes of aggression are very frequent or difficult to handle, a health professional should be consulted to recommend measures to follow, such as the use of some medication or drinking relaxing herbal teas.

On the other hand, if you’re the only person looking after the person with senile dementia, but you feel that the situation is beyond you or you just haven’t got the time, then don’t hesitate to ask for help. Plenty of experts visit homes, residences and care centers to look after a person’s psychological needs. This is preferable to being alone.

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