The Art of Helping Someone With Moderate Dementia Make Choices

You've probably noticed the person in your care becoming less able to make the simplest choices: What kind of cereal to eat? Which sweater to wear? What to do today? Before long, taking any kind of initiative will be impossible, as higher-order thinking becomes more damaged. While some inklings of preferences remain, indulge them to the best of your ability.

Here's how:

  • Don't rush to make all choices for the person. The actual choosing matters less than the pleasant feeling that can arise -- and carry over into other behaviors -- from being involved in social give-and-take.

  • Narrow the options. Present two choices: wheat flakes or oatmeal? Take a walk or feed the ducks?

  • Consider listing your personal first choice last: It's typical that the last word heard will be the one played back to you (oatmeal, ducks).

  • Skip intimidating open-ended questions. Not, "What do you want to do today?" Instead, "Should we take a drive today or feed the ducks?"


about 2 years ago, said...

Every bit of information is helpful We have had such a full life of adventure, love, travel, living abroad that when my wife can't even transfer from bed to wheel chair I keep saying "why did this happen to us", I am 95 still able to cope but what happens If I fall into the same trap. Family does not want to get too close to our problem so that I live day to day and try to keep active and healthy. No solution to this plague and I will be gone long before they find a vaccination. My grandson a PhD and an AD research chemist and his crew in Toronto keep telling me we will have to wait ten years for any probable relief. Ebola is a better bet with the new monkey serum. Norman Duncan.


over 2 years ago, said...

I've known about limiting Moms options to 2 choices but never thought about how she usually picks the last one mentioned. From now on if I have a preference, I know how to ask the question. thanks


over 2 years ago, said...

Thats what I have been doing too with my mom. Having 2 different choices, then letting her pick. "Do you want strawberry yogurt today or blueberry " , " Do you want to wear this sweater or that one", etc. . There are so many things they can't make a decision on, when it doesn't matter what they choose, I let her decide.


over 2 years ago, said...

Narrowing the choices helps in ordering from the menu in a restaurant. Too many things to choose from is confusing for the person with dementia. They still want to make the choice by themselves, but cannot decide quickly. Give them an idea of what they usually like and they will probably choose that in the long run.


almost 3 years ago, said...

My husband hasn't been able to make a decision for a long time I just do it for him because it just confuses him other wise.


about 3 years ago, said...

This article came at the right time for me, I am going through this with my husband. Very helpful


over 4 years ago, said...

It really does annoy me wen gma asks me wut I'm having wen ordering food, she copies wut i want even tho I kno she won't eat it. It's better if I order 4 her or do like the article says about listing choices. Very good advise as always!


over 4 years ago, said...

The part about skipping open-ended questions.


almost 5 years ago, said...

My mom is in a nursing home so there's not a whole lot of options. She doesn't want to go anywhere but back to her home which she can't. If I ask her if she wants me to push her around in her wheelchair (out to the lobby, to the dining room or whereever) she says she just too tired and she is but she still wants to go home.


about 5 years ago, said...

I agree with Ms. Scott's suggestions. I have foud them to be true with my husband. He has Lewy Body dementia and reacts very slowly to questions. I have learned to give him time to process and frequently gently repeat my question as he may forget what I asked midstream. The other day before getting angry at his lack of responsiveness to my request, I thought to ask him if he understood my request. turns out he didn't and I learned that sometimes even though he hears what I say, he doesn't understand what I say. So I need to slow downn and make sure that make my request understandable to him and remember that he is trying to answer me even when it seems like he is ignoring me.


about 5 years ago, said...

GIVING CHOICES IS SO GOOD IN MY CASE. I AM A CAREGIVER TO AN 83YR MAN WITH DEMENTIA. MOST OF THE TIME HE IS VERY GRUMPY AND UNCOOPERATIVE. EVERYOTHER WORD SEEMS TO BE NO TO WHAT I SUGGEST..............NOW I WILL START GIVING HIM CHOICES!


over 5 years ago, said...

This is probably why they like to stick to a ridged routine, so they do not have to make choices, now I know not to ask "What we going to do today? " I thought it was a way of including him into the day ahead, oh so wrong apparently.


over 5 years ago, said...

Very helpful. I just relized this with my husband. Meals were a problem, I'd ask what he wanted and he'd answer let's go out. Now I don't ask I just fix dinner and serve it and he eats it. Thanks


over 5 years ago, said...

It is a good reminder to make it simple but respectful.


over 5 years ago, said...

very helpful