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Taking ACTION to Manage Dementia Care

By Branka Primetica | 06/06/2019

An older couple planning together with the help of a counselor

Caring for a loved one with dementia can oftentimes go hand-in-hand with challenging situations that may lead us to feel stress and uncertainty about how to manage our loved one’s care. It can become overwhelming, especially for one person, but there are steps we can take to minimize the burden and make progress. Action planning gives us guidance and support to meet our caregiving needs and manage our loved one’s care by breaking down larger goals into small, manageable steps towards solutions to potential challenges. As caregivers, knowing when and how to empower ourselves to identify needs and seek help through action planning can ultimately lead to lower levels of strain, burden and depression (Bass, D.M., Clark, P.A., Looman, W.J., McCarthy, C.A., & Eckert, S. (2003). The Cleveland Alzheimer's Managed Care Demonstration: Outcomes after 12 months of implementation. The Gerontologist, 43(1), 73-85).

So, what are the keys to developing effective action steps? Collect your thoughts, remain positive and let’s get started!

What are Action Steps and how do they help create a larger Action Plan to better manage dementia care?

Action Steps are small, discrete tasks that gradually work to help address unmet needs. Unlike goals, Action Steps are specific and straightforward, which can help us to manage everything that needs to be done before it gets too overwhelming. Most importantly, Action Steps are realistic, practical, and achievable by helping us to:

  • Address our unmet needs.
  • Aim for target dates when each Action Step can be accomplished.
  • Identify family members and friends who will work towards accomplishing each Action Step. 

Once created, Action Steps feed into the larger Action Plan, which continuously evolves as the care situation changes. As our existing Action Steps are accomplished, we may want to add new ones as new needs arise. Our overall goals may also change over time, leading to the creation of new Action Steps to achieve them.

Breaking down goals into simple steps can be less stressful and time-consuming, and can allow us and our families to delegate tasks to others who can help. It opens the door for other family members, friends and professionals to help with the care of a loved one, which can increase our support, and ultimately lead to better care for our loved one with dementia. 

What might an Action Plan look like?

Effective Action Steps and overall Action Plans can empower us and our loved ones to: 

  • Access services that meet our mental and physical health needs.
  • Locate resources to educate ourselves on health and care-related information.
  • Involve other family and friends in helping with various tasks.
  • Accept coaching and support from others throughout our caregiving journey.

To achieve this, remember that it can be valuable to focus on our individual strengths, recognize others’ desires to help, consider our loved one’s preferences and engage them in the process. 

By writing down Action Steps and sharing them with others, there’s a greater liklihood of accomplishing them. Below is a snapshot of an Action Plan to review and generate some of your own ideas. Start by thinking of an area where you need help. What is your first Action Step?


Action Step Who will do it? By When?
Contact Sunshine Companion Program and ask about eligibility/enrollment for Tom to receive Companion visits two afternoons each week. Mary (Wife) November 15th 
Visit Tom two evenings each week to provide Mary respite so that she can attend exercise program with friends.  Sally (Daughter) January 30th 
Install safety features throughout the home (nightlights, door alarm, secure rugs) to prevent Tom from falling and wandering at night. Bob (Son) December 15th 
Drive Tom to and from physical therapy appointments two times per week - Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Susan (Sister) December 31st


Is there anyone that can help with creating an Action Plan?

There are local as well as a national programs that can provide coaching to families on ways to ask for help and guidance in effectively managing dementia care and decision-making using the Action Planning process. To explore the coaching services offered at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, visit WeCare...Because You Do.

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