Dementia Solutions – Caregiving Advice, July 2015

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, 2015 Update

1.  The Bath Time Strategy – Is It Okay to ‘Manipulate’ My Mom to Get Her To Take a Bath?

 Dear Dementia Solutions

“My mom, who has Alzheimer’s, has become reluctant to take her bath. The only way she will take one is if I pretend to be sad. Sometimes I even act as if I’m crying and shed a fake tear or two. Even though this strategy works by getting her in the tub, I feel guilty about having to be manipulative. Should I keep using this approach?”

 ~ Desperate Daughter

Dear desperate daughter:

The short answer to your question is: if it works, use it.

My longer response to you is that when it comes to managing the challenging behaviours of those affected by dementia, sometimes we need to use creative, and, yes, even manipulative, techniques (depending on their stage/abilities) to ensure that they receive the best and safest care possible. Since a straightforward request to take a bath is not proving effective in encouraging your mom to comply, you are doing what works. Instead of forcing or intimidating her, you are understanding her perceptions and adjusting your behaviour to conform to the new realities of her condition.

Whenever you feel guilty about your bath-time tactics, remember that the end goal is in your mom’s best interest. Bathing regularly is an important part of healthy living, as it reduces the chance of infections and the likelihood of contracting illnesses. By getting your mom to take her baths, you are protecting her from potentially serious health consequences.

Guilt and stress are common feelings for those taking care of a loved one with dementia, so when talking to family caregivers I always tell them to remind themselves of what a positive and meaningful role they are playing. Know that you are doing a wonderful job in taking care of your mom. You have found a strategy that achieves its goal while keeping the peace and not causing undue distress—which is no easy feat. Keep it up!

2.  To Move or Not to Move — Will Moving to a Seniors’ Residence Make My Friend Feel Happier and Less Lonely?

Dear Dementia Solutions

“I’m worried about my friend who is in the early stages of dementia. She does not seem to be coping well living on her own in her apartment. We speak daily and she always tells me how lonely and sad she’s feeling. I’ve also noticed her increasing memory loss. I’ve suggested that she move to an independent seniors’ residence to be around others, but whenever we talk about this she becomes anxious at the thought of moving. What should I advise her to do?”

~ Concerned Friend in Vancouver

Dear concerned friend in Vancouver:

Hearing every day about your friend’s feelings of sadness must not be easy, but by simply listening to her and providing her a safe place to air her emotions, you are being of great service.

Know that your friend is not alone in what she is experiencing. Feelings of anxiety and isolation are often triggered when someone is affected by memory loss due to the early stages of a progressive type of dementia. As a result, most individuals do require more support to function independently. The question is what type of support would suit your friend best.

If your friend has lived in her apartment for a long time and is comfortable there, then ideally it would be great if she could continue to stay there and remain as independent as possible. Being in her own space may help her feel more like herself despite the growing gaps in her memory. She can have a friend or home support come into her apartment regularly to help with daily needs such as cooking and cleaning, and also to take her out occasionally to socialize. Live-in support, where someone is always available to assist, is another option that may suit her.

Continuing to live in her own apartment may be ideal, but moving into a new environment where a more consistent level of support is available, could also enhance your friend’s quality of life, especially as her memory loss intensifies. Though change can initially be scary and disorienting, some individuals thrive in care facilities/residences after settling in. Not only do such living arrangements have staff who can provide personalized care daily, but they also provide opportunities for social interaction.

Knowing the right time for a move is difficult because the coping abilities of those with dementia can fluctuate. Whether your friend stays in her apartment or moves, the key to helping her adjust to any change is reassuring her and surrounding her with familiarity. With your friendship and support, you can help her make a positive shift that will bring more happiness and joy into her life.

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

Karen Tyrell CDP, CPCA is a Dementia Consultant & Educator for Personalized Dementia Solutions Inc. ( 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.