One of the best ways to help someone with dementia can be to give him or her some of your time. This can feel difficult. They may have better days and worse days, and you may not know what to expect.
A person with dementia might find it difficult to start a conversation or suggest an activity, and it can feel awkward if you don’t know what to say or do.
Some people find it helpful to plan something to talk about or do together. Visit the What works for us page to read ideas from young people who have a grandparent or parent with dementia.
Everyone living with dementia is different, so put yourself in your relative’s shoes to work out how you can help them. Try different things out to find something you enjoy doing together.
When you do something together (such as a puzzle, gardening, or washing up) think about which parts of the task they may need help with, and which parts they might be able to do for themselves. Like everyone else, people with dementia enjoy working together and feeling involved.
If you don’t know what to say or do, don’t worry. Just being there can help. Holding hands, sharing a hug or just sitting with someone else and watching TV can help a person with dementia to feel comforted, calm and safe.
Some days you might not feel like doing things, and that is fine too.
Some young people live with a parent or another relative who has dementia, and may help to care for them. This can be a very difficult thing to do. If you are a young carer, visit the links page to find out where you can get information and support.
‘Just be there for them’ is good advice, but it will not always help to make a person with dementia feel happy and calm. They may get upset or angry, even when you are trying to help them.
If things don’t go to plan, remember that it is not your fault. It can take a while to find things that you enjoy doing together and these things may change over time. What is wrong one day might be right another day, so don’t be afraid to have a go.
Only do as much as you feel you can. If you begin to feel upset or worried, step away or leave the room. Try again when you are ready.
The illnesses that cause dementia can make a person behave in ways they may never have done before they were ill. This may include symptoms such as aggression and even violence towards other people – even people who are trying to help them.
Not everyone with dementia will experience these symptoms, but if they happen to the person you love it can be very upsetting.
Remember that it’s not your fault. If someone acts in a way that scares or worries you, step away or leave the room. Get yourself to a safe place.
Talk to someone about it. This can be hard, especially if the person you’d like to talk to is dealing with his or her own emotions. You could ask your family doctor (GP), or a teacher at school for help. These people have a duty to help keep you safe, and they will want to help you.
If you can’t think of anyone you can talk to, visit the links page for ideas about where to get help and support.
This information was updated in December 2017 and is due for review in December 2019. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.