Alzheimer's and Other Dementias: Making the Most of Remaining Abilities

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A person who is aware of losing some mental and functional abilities may be depressed or frightened and may feel like a burden to those who take care of him or her. Helping the person stay active and involved may make it easier for both of you. Take advantage of the person's remaining abilities for as long as possible.

It is important to give a person with dementia tasks and activities that occupy him or her without pushing too much.

Try some of the following ideas.

  • For as long as he or she is able, allow the person to make decisions.

    This includes decisions about activities, food, clothing, and other choices.

  • Help the person to remain independent.

    Reinforce and support the person's efforts, even if tasks take more time or aren't done perfectly.

  • Tailor tasks to the person's abilities.

    For example, if cooking is no longer safe, ask for help in setting the table, making simple dishes such as salad, or shopping.

  • Help protect the person's self-esteem.

    When the person needs help, offer it gently and discreetly.

  • Create a simple daily schedule.

    Schedule activities and tasks for times of day when the person is best able to handle them. It may be helpful to build a routine that doesn't vary much from day to day. The person may feel less frustrated or confused with a clear, simple daily schedule.

  • If you feel that the person can go out, take steps to help him or her.

    Give him or her directions. Write down the destination, how to get there, and how to get back home, even if the person has gone there many times before. You may want to get a medical ID bracelet for the person so that you can be contacted if he or she gets lost. And you can program an emergency number into a cell phone.

Related Information


Current as of: September 25, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.