How Clients with Dementia Feel and Tips to Care for Them

Today, we wanted to continue the discussion that we started last September about how clients with dementia might feel. We had shared some thoughts from family caregivers and then asked you to weigh in on the question, “Are people suffering from Alzheimer’s really suffering, or are they just as happy as anyone else?”

Here are 5 of the responses that CAREGivers shared:

Tough question. I have been sitting here swinging back and forth. First I replied that they suffer 90% and occasionally feel free of being lost, but I don’t really know if they ever have a bit of time that they feel free of confusion.


As a CAREGiver, I’ve found positive results from our dementia clients by complimenting them constantly. Because of our clients’ memory problems, they simply don’t remember that a CAREGiver said something positive, even sometimes just an hour prior. Fun example to use all day long: “Well look at you with that gorgeous dress today. Where did you get it?” Our client may have told the CAREGiver 3 times already in the same day or shift that their daughter bought the dress as a birthday gift. Well guess what? That dress is only part of the happy memory that is brought to surface, just by the complimentary conversation. Our client may now remember other positive moments that occurred in the past while she was wearing the dress, and here come all the beautiful smiles. How wonderful!


It is my experience that even people with fairly late stages of the disease will communicate that they know something is wrong with their mind and cannot understand why they cannot succeed in calling up the information that they are searching for or put together their thoughts well enough to answer a question. There are good and bad days, joyful and angry, peaceful and frustrated, ornery and despondent, just like the rest of us, only on another level and possibly changing from moment to moment. The good part is that, with redirection, we can often affect the change that we desire for the benefit of the patient and bring them to the positive place once again. With music and existing memories, a well-timed joke, an expression of understanding and reassurance, and most importantly a developed understanding of the person, which takes some time, the tables can be turned and relief achieved, if only temporarily.


I think each person reacts differently to the care, people and the moment. We have to think in short periods of time like they do. Explain, explain, and you still may get a bad reaction, but never stop explaining, and have patience. Agitation is to be expected; you need to know how to deal with it, and again, it’s different with each person. I’ve seen people with this disease go through it with no agitation or anger and others that do. As far as they are not feeling the changes, I’m sure they do, and each day is a challenge for them. To me, it would feel like waking up to a new nightmare each day.


If I’m correct, I think that, to some extent, the patient is unaware of having developed the particular disease, but, to a greater extent, he or she is aware that something has changed. Of course I imagine that change brings about changes in his or her thinking that also affects the emotions and behavior. I also think that they suffer only because they get frustrated and are confused, especially fearing they may no longer be the same or in charge of their lives and affairs. I feel they suffer mostly if they’re not properly cared for.


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