Being Patient When Caring for Someone with Memory Loss

Vicky Pitner   -  

Patience is key in accepting your family member’s memory loss and supporting the behavior challenges that come with cognitive decline. Being able to meet someone with memory loss where the person is cognitively, physically, and emotionally, can ease the stress when providing care and create a happier and healthier environment.  Below are tips that might be helpful, especially during the holidays.

  • Respond rather than react: If your family member has an object in their hand that is not safe and you need to remove it from their hands, always swap it for another object. Showing respect and dignity when interacting with someone with memory challenges requires patience.
  • Avoiding logic: Are we imposing reality rather than “being in the moment” and triggering a challenging behavior?
  • Take a breath, before you respond: It is ok to not respond immediately, and be mindful that your body language matches your words. If the person living with dementia is doing an undesirable activity or behavior, consider the urgency to redirect the behavior by assessing the safety of all. Could it be an opportunity to “join them” in the behavior and slowly redirect?
  • Adapt all activities to meet their ability level: Know what you can control and what you cannot. If your family member has enjoyed playing cards in the past, throw out the rules and the card game may become a sorting game, stacking game, or matching game. Creating and engaging in a fun and sincere connection is much more important than trying to force someone to remember that an ace is higher than a two!
  • Expect plans to change: Even the best-made plans can go awry, but make them anyway. Going with the flow requires an abundance of patience. Often the flow of a person living with memory can be extremely slow. Meals may have to be broken into two or three short attempts as one sitting may not hold the attention needed to finish a meal. Having the patience to supervise a shower that may take an hour could not only alter plans, but it is also time-consuming and causes extreme stress.
  • Take care of yourself: Use logic on yourself, not your family member. Caring for someone living with memory loss is daunting. When you are physically or emotionally exhausted, it is more difficult to show patience. It may seem selfish if you take time to take care for your needs so try shifting your paradigm and see self-care as a strength for a caregiver.


If you, a friend or family member living with memory loss would be interested in learning more about our Memory Ministry, our Virtual Support Group, or our Memory Cafe, please contact Vicky Pitner at