Not everyone will experience difficulties with all of these activities and a person’s symptoms can progress at different rates. You can find information about how dementia commonly affects activities of daily living below.
Over time people living with dementia can find it difficult to use cutlery and their food preferences may change. In later stages of dementia people may need support from loved ones or carers to help them eat. Some people may experience difficulties with chewing and swallowing.
To begin with someone with dementia may not need physical support while walking, but some types of dementia can cause changes to the way a person walks or their balance early on. At first the use of walkers or sticks may only be necessary when away from home, but over time mobility at home can also become affected. Eventually people may require lots of help to walk or to move between a bed or a chair. Some people will need to use a wheelchair.
People with dementia can experience problems with using the toilet. Some people may find it difficult to get to the toilet in time because of problems with coordination and movement. In later stages of dementia incontinence is common and people will need lots of practical support to manage this.
As a person’s dementia progresses they will need increasing support with washing and bathing. To begin with someone may need reminding to bathe or wash their hair. Over time people living with dementia will need full support with washing and personal care routines.
As dementia progresses a person is likely to need help to have a wash, brush their teeth and take care of their hair, hands and fingernails. In later stages of dementia people may need these tasks done for them by a carer or loved one.
A person with dementia can find getting dressed on their own difficult and they may need help with things like buttons and shoelaces. As dementia progresses it can be helpful to have support choosing what to wear and getting dressed, to make sure clothes are comfortable and are put on correctly.
People living with dementia can find it difficult to use phone and may get phone numbers confused. Someone with dementia may begin to forget familiar phone numbers or how to use an answerphone. Simple mobile phones, call screening services and phones with larger buttons can help. Some people may feel more comfortable letting a loved one use the phone on their behalf in later stages of the condition.
As dementia affects a person’s memory and concentration, people may find it harder to follow plot lines or keep track of characters’ names when watching television. Many people with dementia still enjoy watching TV but over time people may not be able to recall everything they have seen and might not be interested in the same things they used to be.
People living with dementia can find it harder to communicate. Some people may find it difficult to remember the meaning of certain words, and others may take time to find the right word when talking. This can mean that while people may be able to go about most aspects of daily life independently, they may find it difficult to hold a conversation. In the later stages of dementia people may rarely speak, and friends and family often develop alternative ways of communicating with them that bring comfort.
Following a process like boiling the kettle or making a meal are complex tasks that become more challenging for someone with dementia Providing support at mealtimes can help people remember to have all their meals and ensure they are getting enough nutrients from what they are eating. In later stages of dementia people often need to have drinks and meals prepared for them to make sure they are eating as well as possible.
Driving can give someone a lot of independence but because dementia affects thinking, reasoning and reactions most people will have to stop driving. Some people may be eligible to take a medical assessment to see if they can continue to drive. When someone is diagnosed with dementia, they must let the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) know. A person living with dementia may need to rely on public transport or loved ones to get to the shops or appointments.
Using public transport like a bus or train can help people living with dementia to get around and stay independent. People may need some extra support to remember routes and timetables. As dementia progresses people may feel more comfortable staying closer to home and travelling only when they are with someone else.
Dementia can affect a person’s ability to remember street names or follow instructions to get somewhere, such as directions on a map. This means people can get easily lost or disorientated, even in a familiar place. As dementia progresses, people may prefer to go out with a loved one or carer so that they do not feel lost or disorientated when they are away from home.
People living with dementia may need help to look after their home. Over time may find it more difficult to use a hoover or may start a household task and get overwhelmed and need to stop. As keeping the home clean and tidy becomes more difficult extra support is often needed from carers or loved ones to help with these tasks.
Shopping can become more difficult for someone living with dementia. They might forget certain items they came out for, get disorientated in a shop if things have moved around, or find counting change at a till takes more time. Over time as their dementia progresses, people need extra support from others to help them get their shopping.
Many people living with dementia still enjoy reading but they may find it more difficult to follow lines of text or remember sections of text as their condition progresses. A person in the later stages of dementia may be unable to read or lose interest in reading but may prefer someone reading to them or listening to an audio book.
Keeping track of appointments and social plans can be difficult for someone living with dementia as memory and thinking skills worsen over time. It can be helpful to keep a pen and notebook by the phone to write down dates and places and having reminders in a calendar on the door or having a loved one help the person keep track of their appointments in later stages of the condition.
Looking after money, paying the bills on time, and keeping on top of finances can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming for someone living with dementia. This can be challenging even in the early stages of dementia. People can find it helpful to have a financial advisor to support them but many people choose to arrange a Lasting Power of Attorney to manage finances on their behalf.
Lots of people struggle to remember to take their medication, but people with dementia often find it harder to do this. Some find it useful to have their medication organised in a box with the time and day on it to help them keep track. As dementia progresses, people may need someone there to support them with taking their medication.
A lot of everyday tasks such as banking, shopping, and staying in touch with people involves using the internet, or the use of technology. People living with dementia can find it difficult to use computers, web pages and apps. As dementia progresses people may no longer be able to use certain technologies, even simple things like alarm clocks, and need support from others to access and use them.
This information was updated in June 2021 and is due for review in June 2023. It does not replace any advice that doctors, pharmacists or nurses may give you. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.