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Caring for a partner with dementia

18 May 2017

Tips to help make life better for dementia patients and their loved ones.

Caring for a partner
Walking is a great choice of exercise that you can do together. Photo posed by models.

Seek financial support

Make sure you’re getting all the financial help and support you’re entitled to. Ask the local authority (council) for an assessment of the person’s needs to find out if they are entitled to financial support. You might also be entitled to Carer’s Allowance -

How to claim carer's allowance

Get regular health checks

It’s important for your loved one to have regular check-ups with their GP or healthcare professional as dementia is a progressive disease and things will change. Staying on top of those changes and being aware of them will help them manage the disease.

It’s advisable for them to see their GP every six months for medication reviews and blood pressure checks, especially if they have vascular dementia which can be linked to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Their medication or dosage may need to change. Staying in regular touch enables the GP to get to know them, which will benefit their long-term health.  

Learn more about different types of dementia

Accept that roles have changed

It’s very hard to accept that the dynamic in your relationship has or will change at some point soon. Whereas before you may have been an equal partnership, your partner will grow increasingly dependent on you for help and support with managing daily tasks.

Locate all important paperwork and documents and be prepared to take on any specific tasks in the future that they dealt with, such as DIY, managing bills or other household chores that you may not have been involved in.

10 tips for better dementia caring

Exercise together

Regular exercise not only boosts physical health and emotional wellbeing for those affected by dementia but will also help to improve blood flow to the brain and help to manage symptoms of the disease, including sun downing, where a person may become restless or agitated when the sun goes down.

Walking is a great exercise choice. If your partner refuses to exercise, doing some brisk walking on your own when time permits will boost your health and emotional wellbeing.

How exercise benefits the brain

Get friends and family involved

Ask friends and family members to help so that you get time to take a break now and then, even if it’s just calling in to see the person regularly or popping round now and then for a cup of tea.

If your partner is reluctant to accept help for caring duties, then ask a friend or family member to come round and take them out for a coffee, a walk to the park or to the gym. Social interaction will be good for your partner in any case.

How to help a family living with dementia

Establish a routine

A person with dementia will tend to cope better with structure and a set routine. Where possible, arrange for the person to get up and eat at the same time. Help them have a routine to their day that involves certain tasks and chores being performed at roughly the same time.

If you need to change their schedule to take them to an appointment, allow extra time for them to get ready and don’t pressure them to hurry up. Be aware that a change in routine may cause confusion or mood swings and be prepared to be more patient when that happens.

Don’t take things personally

It’s very difficult when you’re caring for someone, especially someone you’ve been with for a long time, if they say or do things that may seem ungracious or even hurtful. However, it’s important to remember that dementia affects mood as well as memory. This means they may not always be diplomatic or sensitive to your needs as the disease can affect a person’s ability to edit their behaviour. Knowing this and being aware of it can make things a bit easier.

Six surprising symptoms of dementia

Look for signs of discomfort

By the same token, a sudden change in mood could mean that the person is in pain or not feeling well. If they seem more confused or disorientated, they may have an infection and should see their GP immediately as they may need antibiotics. Look for other signs of pain such as problems swallowing or the person grimacing or clutching their stomach.

Always seek medical help and arrange for the person to see their GP if you are in any doubt about their wellbeing as minor changes detected early on could prevent an illness escalating and may even help them avoid a hospital visit.

Encourage social interaction

Make sure your partner has access to lots of other people for social contact, though it may be best to avoid crowded environments like parties and noisy restaurants where it can be hard for them to hear what’s being said or process many conversations at once.

Smaller, more intimate gatherings with close friends and family may work best, but keeping your partner socially active is a good way to help manage mood and manage the progress of the symptoms.

Dementia-friendly film screenings

Allow independence

It’s easy to try and take over and do everything for the person, but encouraging them to be independent where possible is going to benefit their emotional wellbeing and self-esteem. Rather than trying to do all their chores, let them perform tasks they can do. Focus on what they can do, rather than tasks they can’t.

How to set up the kitchen to allow someone with dementia to retain some independence

Plan ahead

There will come a time when your partner won’t be able to live alone and will require 24-hour care. Start having conversations sooner rather than later about future care and the type of care the person would like. It’s not an easy thing to do but have the conversations now so that you can respect their wishes in the future.

Offload your stress

Caring for a person with dementia can be rewarding sometimes but is also very stressful and tiring. It’s important that you have support from others and can turn to friends and family not only for help with practical tasks but also for moral support. You may also feel that the partner you’ve known and loved for many years is changing and the person that was your equal will become increasingly dependent on you. This is incredible challenging for anyone to deal with so make sure you have lots of support. Talking to a counsellor and exploring feelings of bereavement, which aren’t uncommon when the person is still here, may help you to come to terms with the situation.

About The Alzheimer’s Show

Christina Macdonald is the Online Editor of The Alzheimer’s Show which is for family carers, healthcare professionals and those living with dementia. It offers access to expert advice, support and products and services and takes place at Olympia London on 9-10 June and EventCity Manchester on 23-24 June. Visit

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.