Dear Dementia Solutions – June 2016

Nightmares & Dementia – How Do I Deal With My Husband’s Distress When He Wakes Up From a Nightmare?

 Dear Dementia Solutions

“Nightmares have become a frequent occurrence for my husband who has dementia. When I recently tried nudging him awake from one such nightmare, he grabbed me by the wrist thinking that I was attacking him. I was startled by this because he has always been very non-aggressive. I’m not sure how best to handle these episodes, but last night, during another distressing nightmare, I went to the adjoining bathroom and gently called to him from there. He awoke and then quietly went back to sleep. Is this a good way to calm him moving forward?”

 ~Nightmare Anxieties


Dear nightmare anxieties:

Calling to your husband from the bathroom to wake him up sounds like it worked well to soothe him, while also keeping you safe. Good job on getting creative! Continue what you are doing, but also know that should his behaviour become more extreme there are other steps you can take.

Since aggressive, unpredictable outbursts are understandably a concern, it is important to share these episodes with your family physician and/or your husband’s case worker. Remember that in addition to ensuring safety, getting a good night’s sleep is another key health concern.

Make sure you are prepared for nights when your husband’s reactions may be more intense. If he wakes up at night and is not sure who you are, get to a safe room and lock yourself in it with a phone. This scenario may never arise, but if it does your husband may react to you as if you were a stranger who has broken into his room. If your safety is compromised, do not be afraid to use your phone to call for help.

It may be best to consider sleeping in another room with a lock if your husband’s behaviour worsens. Of course this is only if it is safe for him to roam on his own in the house. If worried about his safety, try using a baby monitor. New sensor monitoring devices which send notifications via text messages and email could also prove useful.

It is likely that your strategy will continue to work well and that more acute measures may not be needed. However, simply reaching out for support and knowing what to do in case a situation does become extreme will put your mind further at ease. Stay prepared, stay safe, and keep up the great work! J


Health Concerns in a Rural Community – What Can I Do to Help My Parents Who Live in a Rural Area and Are Both Struggling With Health Issues?

Dear Dementia Solutions:

“I live in Parry Sound while my parents live in White River, a rural community where they’ve made a great life for themselves. White_River_ON_2Recently, however, they’ve both struggled with health concerns. My dad was diagnosed with dementia and my mum just underwent a major surgery. I’m worried because the strain of their health issues has been exacerbated by financial constraints. I also fear that there aren’t many care facilities close to where they live. My sister also lives in White River, but she works full time and is very busy. What can I do to improve their situation?”

~Concerned Daughter


Dear concerned daughter:

I can hear the concern in your words. As a loving daughter, you understandably want to alleviate your parents’ struggle. I commend you for reaching out for support because often this is the most important first step.

Living in rural areas definitely has its pros and cons. A major con can be a lack of health facilities. In cases where there is also a lack of funds, government support can be helpful, though it may only fulfill minimal requirements.

Since the distance between you and your parents is about an 8 hour drive, assisting them regularly would be impractical. It is good, however, that your sister lives close to your parents, so she can step in to attend to any emergencies. She may also want to consider inquiring with her employer about compassionate leave or any time off for caregivers that may be covered in her work benefits plan.

Also consider options for full time dementia support for your dad. Since you are living in a North East LHIN (Local Health Integrated Network) region and your parents are living in a North West LHIN, start by contacting your parents’ LHIN to ask about options. Moving your parents from their home to a facility which can attend to their health needs may be required. The boundaries of the LHIN are mainly administrative, which means your parents are able to access support in your LHIN region if you would like them to move closer to you. Though a move can be stressful in the short term, it can also have the benefits of creating greater peace of mind and comfort in the long term.

Do not hesitate to reach out for extra support and try to stay as healthy and positive as you can so you can be at your best to help your parents. Above all else, remember that no matter how many miles separate you, your love and care as a daughter transcends all distance.


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™ ( 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.