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memory strategies

3.7 Helping people with dementia to stay on task

Strategies to help maintain focus and stay on task

Many people with dementia are easily distracted and find it hard to focus on a task. People without dementia can usually have something else going on, like the radio, and still focus on a task. For people with dementia, their brains have to work much harder to block out unnecessary stimuli. 

 To support someone to focus on a task, you can suggest the following: 

  • Do one thing at a time – ditch the multi-tasking.  
  • Use simple lists, or step by step instructions. 
  • Take frequent breaks. 
  • Plan the day strategically. For activities that demand a lot of attention, try to do these when the person you’re caring for is well rested. You may wish to plan more routine activities in the afternoon.  
  • Ensure that there is good lighting. If they are looking at screens, make sure there is not a glare on the screen.  
  • To help a person with dementia to remember instructions, suggest that they repeat the task in their mind or out loud. Here is an example: 
  • As they were leaving to go to the mall, Val asked David to go back into the house and get the prescription they left on the kitchen counter. David would go back inside and think “what did I come in here for?”. David found that repeating the task in his mind: “get the prescription from the kitchen”, helped him to not become distracted.  

Read the By Us For Us Guides

For more suggestions on managing the symptoms of dementia, you might find the By Us For Us guides useful. These are written by people with dementia and care partners and can be downloaded for free.