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How to Reconnect with an Elderly Parent or Loved One Who Has Dementia

Dementia is a challenging condition that affects more than just memory. It encompasses a diverse group of symptoms related to a variety of diseases and can seriously impact the way individuals connect with their loved ones. While much of the response to this condition is geared towards ensuring a patient’s safety, as a Geriatric Care Management company, we understand the importance of fostering meaningful connections between family members and elderly individuals living with dementia. In this article, we will explore some examples of how to form a deeper bond with someone who has dementia and discuss how the involvement of a geriatric care manager can be instrumental in this process.

… But first, here are some little-known facts that might clear some things up:

  • Dementia is not a normal part of aging. One of the most common misconceptions is that dementia is a natural consequence of growing older. In reality, dementia is a medical condition that affects cognitive function and memory and is not a normal part of the aging process.

  • Alzheimer's disease is the most well-known form of dementia, but there are many other types, such as vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. Each type presents unique challenges and symptoms.

  • Dementia doesn't just affect memory; it can also lead to some severe changes in personality, mood, and behavior. Individuals with dementia often experience bouts of agitation/irritability, depression, difficulty making decisions, and confusion (especially in the evening hours).

  • According to CADER, roughly 5% of people between the ages of 65 and 75, and nearly half of people over age 85, have Alzheimer's disease - the most common cause of dementia.

As the condition progresses, it’s easy for family members and close friends to feel like they have lost some crucial parts of their relationship with the affected person. They may forget important details from your shared life, change their familiar way of speaking or behaving, or stop recognizing those around them. Connecting with a loved one who has dementia can be a rewarding experience, despite the challenges it presents, and here are some examples of how to go about it:

  • Active Listening: Pay close attention to what your loved one is saying. Even if their words seem disjointed or repetitive, listen with empathy and validate their feelings. Responding to their emotions rather than their words can help establish trust.

  • Use Non-Verbal Communication: Sometimes, words can be confusing or difficult for individuals with dementia. Utilize non-verbal cues such as smiling, holding hands, or maintaining eye contact to convey your affection and support.

  • Engage in Familiar Activities: Engage in activities your loved one used to enjoy, such as listening to their favorite music, looking through old photo albums, or even simple activities like folding laundry together. Familiar activities can trigger positive memories and emotions.

  • Be Patient and Flexible: Understand that dementia can lead to moments of frustration and confusion. Be patient, and adapt to their changing needs and moods. Avoid correcting them or arguing over facts; it can lead to distress.

  • Create a Calm and Comfortable Environment: Reducing distractions and creating a serene atmosphere can make interactions more pleasant and less overwhelming for someone with dementia. Soft lighting and soothing colors can help.

A geriatric care manager plays a vital role in assisting families and individuals dealing with dementia. Here's how they can be of help:

  • Resource Coordination: A big part of the role of a geriatric care management professional is having a strong network of trusted service providers. Most people are not sure where to look for help, and a care management team can connect families with resources such as support groups, respite care, and specialized dementia care facilities. This ensures that families have access to the best available support.

  • Advocacy and Education: Geriatric care managers advocate for the best interests of the individual with dementia and educate families about the condition, its progression, and available options for care.

  • Assessment and Care Planning: Geriatric care managers can assess the individual's needs, preferences, and abilities and create a personalized care plan that addresses their unique challenges and goals.

  • Emotional Support: Geriatric care managers provide emotional support to both the individual with dementia and their family members. They can offer guidance on how to cope with the emotional toll of caregiving.

Reconnecting with an elderly parent or loved one who has dementia is a deeply compassionate and meaningful endeavor. By understanding the little-known facts about dementia and employing strategies to form a deeper connection, families can create moments of joy and bonding amid the challenges. The involvement of a geriatric care manager can greatly enhance this process by providing expert guidance, resources, and emotional support, ultimately improving the quality of life for both individuals with dementia and their caregivers. Remember that patience, empathy, and love are powerful tools in maintaining meaningful relationships throughout the journey of dementia.

Senior Steps provides guidance and assistance with medical, legal, and financial advocacy and planning, and help with activities of daily living.

If you are interested in discussing any matters of aging with a professional on our team, we offer FREE consultation calls every day at 617-405-8796. You can also leave a comment with your question, send us a direct Facebook or Instagram message, or e-mail us at

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