With Dementia, Logic Doesn’t Always Work: How to Convince Your Loved One to Accept Care

How can I convince my Mother that she needs help and can no longer live on her own? She is showing signs of memory loss, and I worry about her safety.

In a perfect world, we could explain situations logically. Our loved ones would understand their dementia symptoms, and readily accept their need for assistance. Sadly, that is not the case. Individuals with dementia or mental health issues may not live in our reality.   They lack insight into their own limitations, resulting in bad judgment and poor decision-making. An older man believes he can still drive his car safely, and ends up lost and alone many miles from home. A woman can no longer keep track of her medication, and lands in the hospital due to an overdose. The possibilities are endless and frightening.

Our efforts to convince loved ones that they can no longer manage on their own typically result in arguments and hurt feelings.   The individual with dementia may never fully understand her need for assistance, no matter how hard you try. Instead, family caregivers must join their loved one’s reality in determining what is important to that individual person. It takes some creativity, but it is worth the effort.

In addition to being unsafe in her home, your Mother may be struggling with meal preparation. Introduce an aide into the home as someone who loves to cook and will provide a nice, hot meal every evening. That may be much easier to swallow than needing an aide’s assistance due to her memory loss and confusion. With a different individual, the aide may be there to help with the housecleaning or to provide transportation. It depends on the priorities and interests of the individual. Once the aide gains the person’s trust, she can begin to help with many other areas of need.

Moving a loved one into a residential facility can be challenging. Once again, efforts to convince the person with logic may never be successful. The reason for the move does not have to be due to memory loss and confusion. The move might begin as a temporary stay because family caregivers will be away on vacation. Or, the move could be due to concern over unsafe steps in the house, or repair work that needs to be done at home.

When preparing for a move, plant the seed early to give the individual a chance to consider the possibility, and to observe the individual’s reaction. Ask if you and your loved one might visit the facility for lunch one day, or even observe an activity. That may help to reduce anxiety and feelings of loss of control. Do not involve the individual who has dementia in the process of the move. Packing and sorting is far too overwhelming, and will likely result in anger and resistance. Instead, you might enjoy a day out of the house with your loved one, while someone else packs her things and sets up her new space.

Each individual with dementia has her own unique personality. It is important for family caregivers to tap into that individual’s reality and to join her journey with dementia in order to provide the care that is needed with the least amount of resistance.