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On February 16, 2023, the family of Bruce Willis, 67, issued a statement revealing that the Hollywood actor has been diagnosed with a rare form of dementia called frontotemporal dementia (FTD). FTD can cause changes in behavior and/or language skills and can cause people to behave in ways that are inappropriate to the situation.
The statement comes less than a year after Willis announced his retirement in March 2022 after being diagnosed with aphasia, a disorder that affects how you communicate. His family has rallied around him to offer their support, both privately and publicly.
If there’s any silver lining in Willis’ diagnosis—and the family’s openness about his condition—it's that it has helped to spread awareness around dementia and the profound impact it can have on over 7 million families in the U.S.
The process of developing dementia and being diagnosed can be slow, confusing, and painful for all involved. But the most important thing to remember is that there are many ways in which you can help your loved one live as independently as possible for as long as possible.
“Dementia is a physically and emotionally challenging disease for both patients and their loved ones. Each day requires patience and empathy. Your main role here is to walk alongside them as they learn to manage their symptoms,” Nancy Mitchell, a registered nurse who has over 37 years of experience in geriatric nursing care, tells Health.
If your loved one is suffering from dementia—whether it be a mild or advanced case—here are some expert-recommended products that can help make their everyday lives easier.
“In the very early stages of dementia, keeping notebooks and written reminders can be helpful,” says Jennifer Avila, Executive Director of Custom Home Care.
A large, brightly colored notebook that isn’t easily misplaced can be a great place to write down important pieces of information. While any notebook will get the job done, we like that this option by Paperage comes in an array of bold colors, is made of vegan leather, and has an inner pocket for receipts, doctor’s notes, appointment cards, and more.
To buy: Paperage Blank Journal Notebook $12; amazon.com
Automatic Pill Dispenser
A dosette box, or medicine/pill organizer, is an important tool to help loved ones stay on track with their medications. Depending on how advanced the dementia is, these can be very basic (like this oversized 2-pack option for only $10 on Amazon). However, if remembering to take their medication regularly is a common struggle, it's helpful to have a more advanced dispenser, like this option by EziMedPil. The 28-day organizer allows caregivers to organize the medication on a monthly basis and set up to six alarms a day. This helps ensure your loved one never misses a dose.
“The alarm on their pill dispenser provides a gentle nudge to adhere to their treatment regimens, without the embarrassment of having a caregiver constantly remind them. It’s an excellent product to keep them accountable and independent,” says Mitchell.
To buy: EziMedPil Automatic Pill Dispenser $64; amazon.com
Dementia sufferers often misplace their most-used items. Remembering where they put their keys or wallet can become a daily problem and lead to increasing levels of anxiety. That’s why we love something like this docking station, which encourages them to put their most important items (think: keys, wallet, cell phone, glasses) in one place.
“Reducing clutter, simplifying the home and using organizational products like this docking station can help someone with memory loss feel in control of their environment,” says Avila.
To buy: JackCubeDesign Wood Docking Station $20; amazon.com
Remote Control Finder
If a docking station isn’t the right solution for your loved one (or you’re looking for an additional way to keep track of belongings), this simple remote control finder is a great option. It’s as low-tech as it comes (no app or WiFi required!) with large buttons that make it easy for those with visual or physical impairments to use. Simply press a button on the transmitter and the corresponding receiver will flash and beep loudly, up to 120 feet away.
This item has 244 5-star ratings on Amazon with one reviewer saying, “My mother uses a cane and at 84 she is constantly misplacing it. We tied [the receiver] to her cane and later that day she lost it again. I found it under the covers in her bedroom. I would never have found it without this! The alarm is loud...loud enough for my hard of hearing parents to hear it from a few rooms away.”
To buy: Jegoteer Remote Control Finder $20 (was $26); amazon.com
Universal Big Button TV Remote
With only 6 large, back-lit buttons, this remote can replace your TV controller, which may become confusing to your loved one.
“Navigating technology can be very difficult for individuals with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. A simplified TV remote control like this one which only has the basic functions can give an older adult a sense of independence and reduce frustration,” says Avila.
Customers agree, with one Amazon reviewer writing, “I bought this for my mom who has dementia, and it is so much easier for her to use without having all those buttons that are on the original remote.”
To buy: Continuus “EasyMote” $16 (was $25); amazon.com
Smartwatch with Life Alert System
“Wandering is a common symptom of dementia,” explains Mitchell. “It’s also one of the most concerning symptoms because the person’s disorientation and lack of awareness of their surroundings could lure them into dangerous environments. We also have to consider the fact that some types of dementia eventually cause impaired motor skills. As a result, these seniors are at an increased risk of falling and injuring themselves.
“A smartwatch with Life Alert ensures that help is always available for these persons. Should anything happen, first responders will be dispatched within minutes to attend to your loved one in need.”
To buy: Seculife SOS Smartwatch $99 (plus $15 monthly fee); amazon.com
Custom Hospital Gown
Since dementia sufferers are prone to accidents, this often leads to an increase in hospital visits. Having a hospital gown they love that expresses their style and personality is a simple way to make these visits more comfortable. Giftgowns has a fantastic selection of gowns for children and adults that are made from 100% cotton with snap buttons on the shoulders and down the back.
To buy: Giftgown “My Other Gown Is Chanel” Hospital Gown $30; giftgowns.com
“Those living with dementia may have difficulty performing everyday tasks like feeding themselves or getting dressed,” explains Dr. Ketan Parmar, a psychiatrist and mental health expert at ClinicSpots. “To assist with this … products like dressing aids can make these activities easier and less stressful for both the individual and their caregivers.”
This dressing stick comes with a shoe horn and dressing hooks to prevent loved ones from bending over while putting on socks, shoes, and pants.
To buy: Long Dressing Stick with Shoe Horn $15 (or $14 for Amazon Prime members with 10% off coupon); amazon.com
Oversized Digital Clock
“A simple, easy-to-read clock with programmable reminders can be helpful for seniors with [dementia]” says Avila. “This product is a good way to prompt seniors with standard, daily routines such as taking medication.”
Additionally, people who suffer from Alzheimers often have difficulty sleeping and can become confused or disoriented starting in the early evening. They may not know what time it is or whether it is night or day and this can lead to feelings of anxiety. A large digital clock that clearly states the time of day and whether it’s “morning,” “afternoon,” or “evening” can be tremendously helpful.
To buy: Urvrriu Digital Clock $56; walmart.com
“There’s no doubt that keys are essential for maintaining safe access to different parts of your home. The [Vodeson] key finder comes in handy by assisting persons with dementia to find their keys, regardless of the unexpected places they might have left them. This might be one of the most useful products since memory loss is one of the main symptoms across most types of dementia,” explains Mitchell.
To buy: Vodeson Key Finder $16; amazon.com
Anxiety is common with dementia and can often make symptoms of dementia worse, “particularly symptoms that affect a person’s attention, planning, organizing and decision-making,” according to the Alzheimer’s Society. Giving a loved one something to do with their hands (like this fidget muff) that allows them to feel comforted while also providing some stimulation, is a great tool to help them relax.
To buy: Odoxia Fidget Muff $40; amazon.com