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How to Support a Parent with Dementia

How to Support a Parent with Dementia

By Francesca | 21st December 2021

There are more than 850,000 people in the UK who have dementia. It is a condition that takes its toll on the patient and their loved ones. When you are caring for a parent with dementia, there are often extra challenges. We have gathered some advice for supporting your parent, as well as guidance on what to do if they refuse care.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a neurological condition that leads to a decline in brain function. Memory can be severely hampered, and it can also affect motor skills. There are many types of dementia, including vascular dementia, but the symptoms tend to remain the same.

Individuals with dementia often undergo psychological changes. Their personalities may alter, and they can find it harder to engage in socialisation. Sometimes they lose interest in long held hobbies, and in some cases the person may begin to experience hallucinations.

Sadly, dementia tends to reduce the patient’s ability to act independently. They can get confused and might believe they still work somewhere that closed years ago. Wandering and failure to recognise loved ones are common side effects of the condition.

Caring for a Parent with Dementia at Home

Though there are many care homes that offer provisions for patients with dementia, you may want to help your parent remain in their own home. There are many advantages to remaining at home; among these is the ability to keep their cherished possessions close at hand. Of course, this can mean less access to care, and as such the responsibilities can rest on you. There are some key considerations to make when caring for a parent with dementia at home.

Keep Calm

It is important to remember that living with dementia can be exhausting. Your parent is likely to be tired often, and this exhaustion may result in confusion. Sometimes these periods can occur at nightfall, and this is known as “sundowning”. Furthermore, your loved one may become somewhat aggressive or frustrated. In these situations, the best thing you can do is to remain calm. Whether they are shouting or refusing to engage, soft, soothing voices are best for offering support.

Be Patient

As well as causing frustration, dementia can cause people to repeat sentences or perform patterns of behaviour. It is important that you be patient with them. They will pick up on your mood and are likely to react negatively if they perceive you as being annoyed with them.

Instead, you can attempt to break these cycles by engaging your parent in another activity. You must be gentle and understanding here, too. Do not rush them, and listen to their concerns. If you feel you are struggling – and it is safe to do so – take a short break to calm yourself.


Make sure you are implementing measures that keep your parent safe at home. As mentioned earlier, people with dementia can be prone to wandering. Sometimes they get lost. You can fit locks where reasonable, or purchase alarms that go off when the front door is opened. You could also invest in GPS bracelets, which will make it easier to locate your parent if they do go missing.

Accept When You Need Help

Caring for a parent with dementia can be taxing. Know the signs of it taking a toll on you and allow yourself to accept support. In some cases, you may need to bring in extra help. Respite care may be a good short-term option when you need to step away for a few days. There are, of course, long-term homecare options if needed.

What to Do When a Parent with Dementia Refuses Help

Dementia can result in confusion. Your parent may not always know what is happening, and so may become frightened. When receiving care, they may feel pressured, or they may simply misunderstand things that are being said. By identifying the triggers of their refusal, you may be able to address it. When they are refusing care, think about the main ways of offering support:

Keep calm and be patient.

When offering to help, use short, simple sentences. Make sure your parent has time to process the information they have been given. If possible, break things down into easy-to-follow steps. However, you should always ensure they are spoken to as an adult; do not infantilise your parent.

It may be that your parent is frustrated because they are hungry or need to go to the toilet. Sometimes it can be hard for people with dementia to express their needs. When these needs are met, your parent may become more receptive to support.

If they are receiving care from an unfamiliar face – a new carer, for example – then it is crucial that a positive atmosphere and a rapport is established. People with dementia receiving homecare will need reassurance that the carer is someone that can be trusted.

The most important thing when dealing with a parent refusing care is to be patient and to take their concerns seriously.

Homecare from Abing

If you feel like you need some extra support when caring for your parent with dementia, you may wish to consider homecare. Homecare involves visits from a trained, compassionate carer who will provide high-quality personalised care. We use our in-depth needs assessment to determine exactly what support is necessary and work with you to craft a tailored care plan.

At Abing we offer two main forms of care: domiciliary and live-in. More information on each can be found on their respective pages.

In short, though, domiciliary carers will visit your parent at prearranged times during the day to help with tasks such as meals or going to bed. Domiciliary care services are also ideal if you need some respite.

Live-in carers are full-time carers who will live in your parent’s home. This means they can offer care at all hours. Their routine presence can also be reassuring for a parent with dementia as they will not have to worry about them coming and going.

If you would like to learn more about our care services, be sure to look at our FAQs and the other articles in the Help Hub. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to get in touch. You can contact us using our handy form, or speak to our friendly team on 0800 008 7000.


Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 21st December 2021 to reflect current information.