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A Guide for Family Caregivers: Dementia Crisis Caregiving

caregiver holding woman's hands

There are many different forms of dementia, but what they all have in common is psychological effects that make it difficult for your loved one to maintain their independence. If you have never had experience with dementia, and your loved one has recently been diagnosed, then it might be time to put a plan in place to help with what might come next: Crisis Caregiving. Many individuals living with dementia may experience wandering, aggression, hallucinations, and depression. If you know the signs though, you have a great opportunity to help your loved one find comfort and control when these things happen. Keep reading to learn more about what you can do.


Often, those with dementia have a reduced ability to recognize familiar surroundings. This is greatly confusing, and your loved one may wander away looking for a more familiar environment. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 60% of people with Alzheimer’s disease wander at some point.

What causes wandering? There are many reasons, including increased stress, change in previous routines, navigation problems, looking for loved ones, or personal needs – such as looking for a restroom and getting lost.

Signs that your loved one may wander include a high level of nervousness or anxiety when visiting a new place, asking for family members or friends from the past, forgetting how to get around, returning from activities later than usual, making repetitive movements, or pacing around the house.

You can help your loved one with wandering by making sure to secure the location where they live. You can also use a mobile app or tracking device to help keep tabs on your loved one. If your loved one does wander away, start looking for them immediately and if you aren’t able to find them within 15 minutes, call 911 to report them missing. The sooner action is taken, the more likely you are to get them home safely.


Sometimes there are certain personality changes that occur with someone who’s living with dementia. This includes aggression. Signs that your loved one may develop aggressive behaviors include increased stress, increased pain, incontinence, altered sleeping habits, confusion, isolation or loneliness, medication interactions, and feeling as though they have a loss of independence. Signs that your loved one is having an aggressive episode can include verbal abuse, physical abuse, or both. You can help your loved one by:

  • Staying calm
  • Ensuring you don’t retaliate
  • Reassuring your loved one that you love them and are there to help
  • Trying to understand the underlying issue behind the aggression – and make adjustments if possible
  • Asking for help from friends, family, and other familiar companions
  • Calling 911 if you are in immediate danger

Depression and Other Emotional Changes

When it comes to dementia, those affected experience some kind of depression. This stems from a combination of knowing that they are losing their memory, and losing the ability to communicate how they are truly feeling. Signs that your loved one is depressed include sadness, crying, restlessness, irritability, trouble staying focused, headaches, upset stomach, changes in weight, sleeping too much or not enough, loss of interest in normal activities, thoughts of suicide. You can help your loved one if you are concerned about depression by consistently reassuring them that you are there for them, love them, and want to help them. You should also contact your loved one’s primary care physician immediately, and ensure that you call 911 if your loved one is in immediate danger of harming themselves.

We specialize in dementia care here at Homewatch CareGivers of Ellicott City! We’re always here to support you and your loved one. If you are looking for resources, assistance with a plan, or you simply need a break, then we can help. Contact us today to learn more about the different options you have to help your loved one.

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  • Communicating With Your Family Member with Dementia
  • 5 ways to Communicate With a Loved One Living With Dementia
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