Dealing With Dementia: Strategies for Nursing Home Staff

Category: Alzheimer's | Assisted Living

It’s estimated that over 55 million people worldwide have dementia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The slow decline and sudden emotional changes of an individual with dementia make it one of the most challenging diseases to care for. Skilled nursing facilities can help alleviate some of this burden as faculty are trained to manage the symptoms of a dementia patient.

A nursing home nurse is holding the shoulder of a dementia patient, providing comfort.

If you are a nurse for dementia in an assisted nursing facility or provide dementia assistance in a medical setting, knowing how to work with dementia patients is essential. Today, we will talk about some tactics every dementia care nurse should know.

See how Haven Health skilled nursing homes can provide your loved one with the care they need.

What Is the Best Strategy for Working With People Who Have Dementia?

There are many strategies for working with people who have dementia. Dementia patients can be incredibly vulnerable, and it takes a unique skill set to ensure your patients feel respected, cared for, and protected. If you are a nurse working in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or skilled nursing facility, you’ll find that there are many strategies you can turn to to ensure you are delivering the best care possible. Some of these strategies include:

Building a Meaningful Relationship

Anything done with care and purpose yields fruitful outcomes. The same rings true when working with dementia patients. Whatever the facility or setting, you should always strive to build a meaningful relationship with your dementia patients. Some ways to do this is by asking about their family, their hobbies, and any other topics that are of interest to them.

Not Taking Things Personally

It can be difficult to separate your emotions from your duties as a nurse when working with a dementia patient. Unfortunately, the aggressive, dismissive, or frustrating aspects of caring for a dementia patient can be hurtful. It’s important to always keep in mind that these seemingly negative behavior changes have nothing to do with you or the patient and everything to do with the disease. Lean into your patience, and revert to the five Rs to help you reorganize your thoughts after a difficult moment.

What Are the 5 R’s of Dementia?

The five R’s of dementia are a guideline of care that skilled nurses and caregivers refer to when an individual with dementia experiences struggles, including lapses in memory. It’s important to refer to the five R’s in moments of conflict, frustration or when a dementia patient is having an especially difficult day.

  • Remain calm: Do not be reactive when caring for individuals with dementia. Instead, remain calm, respond in a caring and clear manner, and don’t argue or try to reason. The moment of frustration will pass, and if you feel frustration coming on, take a deep breath to help you regulate your emotions.
  • Respond to feelings: Patients with dementia will experience a lot of feelings, some of which are rooted in reality while others may not be. Additionally, their feelings can, and often will, shift throughout short periods of time. As a patient or your loved one experiences these feelings, validate them by acknowledging them and responding back.
  • Reassure: It’s important to constantly reassure dementia patients to let them know that they are safe and cared for. Dementia patients may often feel confused, fearful, or unsure of their surroundings. When this happens, reassurance can remind them that they are okay.
  • Remove: If at times you find yourself getting frustrated, remove yourself physically or psychologically from the moment so you can regain your composure
  • Return: Always return back to your dementia patient after you have taken a moment to regain your composure. It’s important to understand that while your frustrations are valid, you should never take it personally.

Working with dementia patients is incredibly rewarding but brings its own unique set of challenges. When these challenges arise, utilizing the five R’s is one of the best ways to ensure you’re offering the best care to your dementia patient.

How Do You Deal With a Dementia Patient Being Uncooperative?

People who have dementia often struggle with memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion, even if moments ago they did not show any of these symptoms. Because of the sudden change in their ability to communicate and think, they can feel overwhelmed and even appear difficult to work with at times.

If you are working with someone who has dementia and becomes uncooperative, it’s important to remember that you still have control over the situation, even if your patient has lost control over the faculties.

Follow the steps to ensure the best care is provided:

  • Set a positive mood when interacting with your dementia patients, even if they are frustrated, confused, or uncooperative. Creating a good mood makes it easier for them to ease out of their uncooperation.
  • Get your dementia patient’s attention, speak slowly and with a clear message, and maintain a soft and kind face when you speak with them
  • When communicating with a dementia patient during an uncooperative period, ask short and simple questions and get a feel for which way they want the conversation to go. Keep the tone positive, and be sure to ask questions that you know they’ll be able to answer; this will help alleviate any further frustration.
  • Listen with all your senses. As with all people, dementia patients should feel heard and as the first line of care, it is your job to actively listen to them when they are communicating with you.
  • Too many steps can cause frustration and difficulty, which can cause stress amongst the individual. As a caretaker, your job is to help alleviate this stress so they continue to feel safe and cared for.

Find a Senior Care Facility Near You

If you are searching for one of the best assisted living facility locations in your area, turn to the team at Haven Health. We are dedicated to providing quality care to your loved one living with dementia.

Contact the team at Haven Health to learn more


Dementia Symptoms. (2024).

Dementia – World Health Organization (WHO). (2023).

Ferman, T. (2022). Understanding Behavioral Changes in Dementia.