How do you deal with a mother who’s always accusing people of stealing her stuff? Or a dad who won’t eat? How about a wife who screams curses and starts fights, a husband who thinks he should still drive, an uncle who blames you for dumping him in care, or a mom who doesn’t remember who you are?

When you care for someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, you have a million concerns like this. And while the problems you face might vary from day to day or even minute to minute, they all make you ask one desperate question:

How do I deal with this?

When you're fielding complaints, one thing that can help is knowing that sometimes a complaint isn’t the real issue. It might be just a clue to the real issue—and maybe even a key to resolving the problem.

For example, in the video below, Kim Warchol discusses what it means when a resident in a care community says, “Help! Have you seen my mom? I want to go home!”


As Kim says, it might not be so much that the person is looking for their physical childhood home. Rather, they might be yearning for the emotion of home, and what home represents: love, acceptance, comfort, safety, familiarity, purpose.

If your loved one wants to go home, or if they feel robbed, angry, or won’t eat, try to help them feel emotionally comfortable and secure. If your person lives in a care community, it’s especially important that the staff also know how to make your loved one feel valued and welcome there every day.

This Life Story Questionnaire [PDF] can help. Fill it out with (or for) your loved one to help staff get to know your person’s background, likes, dislikes, and answers to questions like “What makes you feel happy?” “What makes you feel safe?” “What makes you feel anxious, angry, or frustrated?”

For more on dealing with dementia, this free advice app from Home Instead Senior Care features an Ask a Question function and nearly 500 tips from experts and caregivers. Another resource is the Carely app, designed to help families plan and report to each other on visits.

What helps you deal with dementia? What resources and techniques would you recommend?