Dementia Solutions – Caregiving Advice, July Update

Dementia expert, Karen Tyrell, offers answers to visitors for their situation-specific questions. Karen is a dementia consultant who can point you in the right direction, giving quick insight and personalized answers to help you with dementia care challenges.

Do you have a specific question relating to dementia that you need answered? Please submit your questions by email to:[email protected]

July, 2014 Update

1. Should we seek a second opinion?


“My mother, who has dementia, has been visiting the same family doctor for many years. However, we’re not completely satisfied with his services because he doesn’t seem to be taking a thorough look into her symptoms and hasn’t provided an in-depth understanding of her diagnosis. I want my mother to receive the best treatment possible—what would be the best approach to seeking out a second opinion?”

~Second Opinion Seeker


Don’t feel guilty about seeking out a second opinion. Dementia is a complex condition requiring a specialized approach. This doesn’t mean the doctor isn’t well-equipped to deal with other health issues, it simply means dementia is not his area of expertise.

Ask the doctor, in a friendly manner, if your mother can be referred to a geriatric specialist—you will likely find that he is more than willing to help. Tell him that you’ve heard of families being referred to geriatric specialist teams to explore treatment options for aging patients. Some geriatric teams don’t require referrals, so if the doctor is reluctant to assist, you can do a bit of your own detective-work.

Try contacting the College of Physicians or another alternative is taking your mother to a walk-in clinic where she can get additional testing done and perhaps be referred to a specialist.

Continue in your quest to leave no stone unturned in finding the best option for your mother. I’m sure you will find what you’re both looking for. I applaud you for being a great advocate for her!

2. Paid Companions – Good idea?


“My husband and I live with my mother-in-law who has dementia. Living with her hasn’t been easy as she frequently displays paranoia, thinking that we are out to “get” her and don’t have her best interests at heart. We were thinking of hiring a paid companion who could communicate with her more easily. Would this be a good idea?”

~ Unsure Daughter-in-law


Absolutely! If it’s within your means, regular visits by a companion is a great idea. There are many great companies out there.

Often pleasant social graces are displayed more by a person with dementia when a new person is in the room. However, you want to be sure the introduction of this companion is done in a positive and non-threatening way to avoid more paranoid concerns. Best not to have her believe the companion is there to “help” her. It may not be taken well. Think of a creative idea for an introduction that will result in a lasting successful friendship.

Choose a companion that your mother-in-law can bond with—maybe a younger person that she can teach an activity to, like cooking or sewing. This will create an added sense of purpose for her and she will also gain a new friend. This will help her feel less isolated since many old friends may have passed on and having dementia can make it difficult to pay visits. Lastly, ensure the companion has been trained and experienced in providing dementia care.

A third party companion may gain your mother-in-law’s trust and act as an indirect conduit of information. For example, she may reject your advice to see a doctor, but may readily accept the same suggestion from the companion.

Working with the companion, you will be able to more effectively use therapeutic reasoning techniques, communication strategies and validation, to help your mother-in-law feel better emotionally and physically. With you, your husband and a companion working together, your mother-in-law will have a supportive team backing her!


Karen Tyrell CDP, CPCA is a Dementia Consultant & Educator for Personalized Dementia Solutions ( and the author of the book “Cracking the Dementia Code – Creative Solutions to Cope with Changed Behaviours.” She offers her expertise on dementia care through speaking engagements, workshops and by working one-on-one with families and caregivers.