Q:  My father was just diagnosed with dementia. What should the family do next?

A:  Once a diagnosis of dementia has been received there are many steps that can be taken to help both the client –and the family– adjust. While most types of dementia cannot be cured, there are ways to manage symptoms.

Talk with your doctor about medications. Although there are no medications to “cure” dementia, some may slow down the progression. Others may help manage symptoms associated with dementia, including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances and agitation.

Occupational therapists can suggest modifications to make the home safer, teaching both the client and family about coping behaviors. Reducing clutter and noise, coupled with a consistent routine can make it easier for the dementia client to focus and help reduce confusion.

Family members can also help in the following ways — 

  • Enhance communication– Too much information or excessive choices can be overwhelming. Try speaking slowly using simple sentences. Often someone with a dementia diagnosis may have word-finding difficulties, so give them time to respond.
  • Engage in activity– Plan activities the individual enjoys and can still perform. Listening to music, coloring, cooking, gardening, etc are examples of enjoyable activities that can be stimulating both physically and intellectually.
  • Encourage exercise– Exercise for those with dementia not only improves strength, balance and heart health, but may also improve sleep and help ease symptoms of restlessness and agitation.
  • Establish a routine– Routines are extremely important to those with memory impairment.  Encourage your loved one to wake up at the same time each morning, and establish nighttime rituals as well.  Have you heard of “Sundowners Syndrome?” It is named for the restlessness and agitation that often gets worse when the sun goes down. Eliminating evening caffeine and sugar and decreasing stimuli prior to bedtime will help smooth the nighttime transition.
  • Keep a calendar– Knowing what to expect each day can bring comfort to those with dementia. Keep a print calendar with upcoming events on it and review it together each morning.
  • Plan for the future– Allow your loved one to be involved in future plans, to the extent they are comfortable. After a dementia diagnosis, it is important to consider financial and legal issues, safety and daily living concerns and long-term care options.

If you need help with a care plan for a loved one, contact the Experts in Aging at, where you can also download a comprehensive Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Guide.


One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.