Tips for Demystifying Resistance in Loved Ones with Dementia


When older adults without memory problems refuse care or assistance, we can usually infer their behavior is caused by embarrassment or the fear of losing independence. Adding dementia to the mix, and the loss of cognitive abilities it causes, the reasons for resistive behavior become more complex. Several reasons why dementia causes loved ones to refuse care include:

  • Confusion – Your loved one doesn’t understand what you are asking them to do or why they need to do it.
  • Changes in Preferences or Routine – What you’re asking your loved one to do doesn’t fit with what they would normally do on their own.
  • Sense of Control – Your loved one feels as though your interference is threatening their independence, or they feel as if they are being bossed around. They are refusing to cooperate as a way of maintaining control however they can.
  • Environmental Perception – Your loved one is overwhelmed by sensory information, or the sensory changes caused by dementia make it difficult to see things as they are.
  • Depression – Depression makes it hard for someone to accomplish tasks, feel excited or maintain energy.
  • Distrust – Your loved one’s dementia symptoms cause them to forget who you are or why you’re asking them to do something. Hallucinations, delusions and suspicion are all common symptoms of dementia.

Depending on the situation and how determined your loved one is, you can encourage them to accept the assistance and care you offer. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Stay Calm and Positive – Loved ones with dementia easily pick up on and respond to the body language and stress of their caregiver. When they refuse help, remain calm and speak clearly as you explain the benefits of what you are asking them to do.
  • Be Patient – If your loved one is confused about your request, you may have to speak slower or repeat what you’ve said.
  • Promote Independence – If your loved one is resisting as a response to their loss of dignity or privacy, reassure them that you’re only trying to help them so they can continue to do things on their own.
  • Show Respect – In all you do, be respectful to your loved one. They will be more likely to cooperate if they feel respected than if they feel belittled or bullied.
  • Be Flexible – Adjust your plans if you need to. If they are adamant about refusing a task, try again later when they might be feeling better.

Another important strategy for dealing with your loved one’s resistance is to reassess your perspective. When your loved one refuses to comply, ask yourself these three questions: What will happen if my loved one doesn’t cooperate right now? Will they be harmed? Will others be at risk? If immediate health risks are absent, perhaps your expectations for compliance are unreasonable. In the case where your loved one would rather eat oatmeal for dinner, your insistence on fish and vegetables may be unnecessary. Stay humble in your caregiving, and always evaluate your actions according to the best interests of your loved one.

The Art of Living

At Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, we’ve mastered the art of living. We’ve perfected the balance of personalized support and an uplifting lifestyle, helping our residents experience independence, joy, and meaning every day.

Offering supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care services for families in Venice, Florida, Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay was founded with one simple, yet profound goal – to create a community worthy of our parents. In all we do, we are guided by the principles of family, culture, and engagement, working to represent the remarkable way of life our families deserve.

The essence of our community is made up not only of mere aesthetics but an artfully designed lifestyle to bring out the best of what each day has to offer. From dedicated care that respects residents’ individuality and dignity to a lifestyle that nurtures their love of life, Tuscan Gardens was built to be more than just a residence, but a place to call home.

To learn more about our comfortable, elegant community, contact us today!

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