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Dementia: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Dementia is a loss of mental skills that affects your daily life. It is different than the occasional trouble with memory that is part of aging. You may find it hard to remember things that you feel you should be able to remember. Or you may feel that your mind is just not working as well as usual.

Finding out that you have dementia is a shock. You may be afraid and worried about how the condition will change your life. Although there is no cure at this time, medicine may slow memory loss and improve thinking for a while. Other medicines may be able to help you sleep or cope with depression and behaviour changes.

Dementia often gets worse slowly. But it can get worse quickly. As dementia gets worse, it may become harder to do common things that take planning, like making a list and going shopping. Over time, the disease may make it hard for you to take care of yourself. Some people with dementia need others to help care for them.

Dementia is different for everyone. You may be able to function well for a long time. In the early stage of the condition, you can do things at home to make life easier and safer. You also can keep doing your hobbies and other activities. Many people find comfort in planning now for their future needs.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Eat healthy foods. Eat lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables every day. If you are not hungry, try snacks or nutritional drinks such as Boost or Ensure.
  • If you have problems sleeping:
    • Try not to nap too close to your bedtime.
    • Exercise regularly. Walking is a good choice.
    • Try a glass of warm milk or caffeine-free herbal tea before bed.
  • Do tasks and activities during the time of day when you feel your best. It may help to develop a daily routine.
  • Post labels, lists, and sticky notes to help you remember things. Write your activities on a calendar you can easily find. Put your clock where you can easily see it.
  • Stay active. Take walks in familiar places, or with friends or loved ones. Try to stay active mentally too. Read and work crossword puzzles if you enjoy these activities.
  • Do not drive unless you can pass an on-road driving test. If you are not sure if you are safe to drive, your provincial ministry of transportation can test you.
  • Keep a cordless phone and a flashlight with new batteries by your bed. If possible, put a phone in each of the main rooms of your house, or carry a cell phone in case you fall and cannot reach a phone. Or, you can wear a device around your neck or wrist. You push a button that sends a signal for help.

Acknowledge your emotions and plan for the future

  • Talk openly and honestly with your doctor.
  • Let yourself grieve. It is common to feel angry, scared, frustrated, anxious, or depressed.
  • Get emotional support from family, friends, a support group, or a counsellor experienced in working with people who have dementia.
  • Ask for help if you need it.
  • Tell your doctor how you feel. You may feel upset, angry, or worried at times. Many things can cause this, including poor sleep, medicine side effects, confusion, and pain. Your doctor may be able to help you.
  • Plan for the future.
    • Talk to your family and doctor about preparing an advance care plan and other important papers while you can make decisions. These papers tell your doctors how to care for you at the end of your life.
    • Consider naming a person to make decisions about your care if you are not able to.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are lost and do not know whom to call.
  • You are injured and do not know whom to call.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are more confused or upset than usual.
  • You feel like you could hurt yourself because your mind is not working well.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.