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?"

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio