Guidance and tips for staff to help people with dementia

3. Practical support and dealing with difficult situations

Practical support:

  • If someone can't remember how to do something, offer to show them how to do it. As much as possible, do the task with them not for them.
  • Somebody with dementia may feel anxious about their ability to carry out tasks or activities. Try not to put them under pressure: break down tasks into smaller tasks, supporting them along the way.
  • If someone appears to be looking for something they can't find, ask if you can help.
  • People with dementia may have problems with money or their payment card. Try to be patient: tell them there's no hurry; ask if you can help counting out the right money.
  • If someone cannot remember significant information, for example their address or PIN, make sure you are aware of your organisation's alternative procedures that will help them access the service or information they require (eg being able to sign for purchases). If your organisation doesn't have these processes in place perhaps you could suggest developing them (eg a 'no hurry check-out').
  • If someone forgets what you have just said, repeat your sentence patiently as if you had not said it before.
  • Be aware of environments that are noisy or dark, and if you can, provide a quiet place where it is easier to offer one-to-one assistance.

If you suspect someone is having difficulties or recognise that a regular customer is having specific problems associated with dementia, be guided by them as to how you can answer their needs.

Dementia affects everyone differently so you may be able to suggest adjustments or put relevant practices in place for individual people with particular requirements. A small action may make a significant difference to someone and help them to continue living safely and comfortably in the community.

Dealing with a difficult situation

Customer service can sometimes be demanding and stressful. Practise your techniques for coping when your role is challenging and you are helping someone with dementia who is experiencing difficulties. Remember the following tips:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Keep your breathing even.
  3. Reassure the person with dementia or anyone with them that they are not under any pressure.
  4. Explain to anyone else concerned that the situation is under control and that it will be resolved as soon as possible.
  5. If the situation remains difficult, ask a colleague or supervisor for assistance.

More information:

We have a publication called 'How to help people with dementia: A guide for customer-facing staff', which you can download for free or buy on our online shop.

Download the guide

Buy the guide