Each person with dementia will have different needs, abilities and preferences but there are some useful general tips for anyone supporting someone with dementia:

  • Focus on what the person with dementia can do, rather than what they cannot
  • Allow more time for the brain to process information
  • Keep things normal as far as possible - if the person with dementia has always taken the lead in an area of life, continue to include them in decision-making in that area for as long as possible
  • Don't test a failing memory, or do anything that might make someone feel stupid eg, for forgetting something or being unable to do something they would normally do easily
  • Encourage the person with dementia to keep up with hobbies and interests they have enjoyed in the past
  • Find meaningful activities that are enjoyable and allow the person to gain a sense of achievement.

If you are a friend or more distant family member the best thing you can do is keep in touch. Friends and family affected by dementia need your support more than ever, even if you do not live nearby. Ask how you can help. 

'Feelings are more important than facts'

Remember that feelings are more important than facts. Resist the temptation to correct someone who is obviously living in a different reality. Instead:

  • Be friendly and a good listener
  • Body language can be as important as words. A smile, eye contact , and often touch, is the key to effective communication
  • Use simple words and short sentences, and stick to one topic at a time
  • Avoid asking questions that test memory. Stick to the here and now, or if there is time for a longer conversation, ask about a person's early life. 
  • Finding out as much as you can about a person's past life can give you ideas for good conversation starters - it may be easier for people to talk about times in their life from long ago. 

Supporting someone with dementia from a distance

If you are not living close by you can still offer support. Try to keep in touch as much as possible with the person with dementia, and with more immediate family carers. They will need to know that you care and are there for them.

  • Ask what would be helpful, and the best way to keep in touch
  • Don't stop visiting, even if you think a relative won't remember that you have been there
  • When you visit, bring memory prompts such as photos or items from the past to share and talk about, but don't 'test' someone's memory
  • Bring grandchildren to visit. Even if the person isn't quite sure of the family connection, young children especially are usually very accepting and intergenerational bonds can be a great source of joy
  • Write letters or send cards if using the telephone is difficult
  • If the person uses Skype or another way of connecting keep doing that regularly at set times so it becomes a regular habit and something to look forward to
  • Think about connecting with a trusted neighbour if the person lives alone and is hard to reach
  • Help with online shopping from afar 
  • Consider setting up an online assistant such as Alexa which can be helpful for some people living with dementia 
  • Compile a memory book or musical playlist for an older relative
  • Become a Dementia Friend so you have more understanding what your relative or friend may be experiencing.

There are many websites with ideas for activities which people with dementia may enjoy. See our links pages for details or activities at home pages.

If you are the main family carer please see our For Carers pages for additional practical and emotional support.

If you or the person who are supporting lives in Wiltshire, talk to one of our Dementia Advisers for more information.