What to do when your loved one with dementia refuses help


Even though our loved ones require more and more help and guidance as their dementia progresses, they may refuse a helping hand at home or within a care facility.

What is one to do in this situation?

The first principle I tell people to keep in mind is that as caregivers, we need not list out every detail about the care plan – at least not initially. In my years in being a leader and advocate for dementia care and other aging-related issues, I’ve found this to be the most effective approach.

There’s no need to explain every aspect of care that a caregiver will provide before the relationship between the caregiver and patient is formed. Our primary goal is not to complete task A or B, but rather, build a relationship.

The results of delaying the details will be positive immediately. In the long run, it may be one of the most effective tools caregivers can use.

Offering less information will allow the patient or loved one to feel less threatened. Too much information may stir unwanted consequences or sentiments that could further hinder proper caregiving.

Remember, one of the goals of proper dementia care through “dementia-awareness” is to facilitate meaningful connections and moments. This positive approach can be accomplished by slowly weaving in information about our care.

For example, a caregiver may ask the patient for help during a task, but in due time. The first step may be for the caregiver to carry out the task in front of the patient, or, ask the patient to carry on with his or her task separately from the caregiver’s task. Gradually, the caregiver can engage your loved one and ask for assistance.

Caregivers are trained to be gentle, encouraging, empathetic, calm, confident, patient and present in the moment. Each of these terms are positive and form the foundation of a Loving Approach to Dementia Care. When caregivers and families practice these methods in tandem, meaningful moments and special connections will become normal occurrences in our everyday lives of caring for someone with dementia regardless of where it takes place. This is our goal.

Every situation in which caregivers implement these pillars of care will not necessarily look like a previous experience. As the caregiver and patient fold towels, it may be necessary to take a step back and let the patient finish at his or her own pace, for example. Then, the caregiver may move on to the next step and ask where the towel should be stored. At other times, a caregiver may just have to sit and drink tea with the patient without any expectations. We may not realize it, but a person with dementia may just want to feel the security of the caregiver’s presence and enjoy the soothing effects of a hot cup of tea — and that can mean the world to them.

The important element to remember is caregivers must act within the moment and express these caring attributes. The result will be a transformative kind of care that’s loving and fully cognizant and empathic of the patient’s needs. This leads to a loving approach in which our specially tailored help is welcomed.

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