Getting Help with Alzheimer's Caregiving

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Getting Help with Alzheimer's Caregiving
A resident walking her dog outside on a garden path

Being an Alzheimer’s caregiver is a selfless, rewarding act—but remember that you’re not alone, nor do you have to do this on your own. 

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are progressive conditions, which means as your loved one moves through each stage of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, they will likely require specialized memory care. As a caregiver, you may need additional help, so we’ve provided the following tips and support resources to give you a helping hand in this important role.

Tips for Meeting Your Loved One’s Care Needs

Consider implementing the following steps to strategically meet your loved one’s needs.

Start a Routine

Routines are key for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia because they provide a familiar structure to each day, and they help your loved one feel calm and comforted. They also help your loved one know what to expect and retain some independence while performing activities they can do on their own. Routines play a key role for caregivers, as well, by helping with time management so you can regularly get essential tasks done.

A good routine establishes time for high-priority tasks while making sure they occur in a predictable order. Your routine should include:

  • Unstructured time: Spend time with your loved one, even if you’re just sitting together for a few minutes.
  • Daily tasks: Carve out time for your loved one’s daily tasks that they may need help with, such as bathing or grooming. 
  • Necessary tasks: Ensure you account for necessary tasks such as work, picking up kids from school, and other daily activities.
  • Activities that are relaxing or meaningful to your loved one: These activities can include taking a walk outside, socializing with family or friends, or putting together a puzzle.
  • Self-care: Taking care of yourself is vital to your well-being, so prioritize spending a bit of time each day on activities that replenish your spirit.

When you’re creating your routine, develop a list of everything that needs to be completed, how frequently it should occur, and a time estimate for how long each task takes. Remember to allow some extra time each day for transitions and unexpected tasks that may pop up. 

As you’re implementing a routine, make sure to avoid the following pitfalls:

  • Taking too much control: Give your loved one as much control as possible.
  • Treating your loved one like they’re a child: Don’t force them to do anything, and remember that as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia progresses, you may need to stop some aspects of your established routine that don’t serve your loved one any longer.
  • Not evolving as your loved one’s condition changes: Their needs are going to change over time, so make sure you’re adapting the routine with them.

Write Down Information

Keeping a notebook, calendar, or sticky notes with important appointments and events will help you build a routine with your loved one and help them know what to expect each day. Keep the item (or items) you’re implementing in the same spot so you and your loved one can reference it regularly, and keep the information free of abbreviations and as concise as possible.

Placing sticky notes around the house can be helpful if your loved one is still completing activities independently. The brightly colored notes can draw attention, and they can be thrown away after use. However, when you’re deciding which strategy to implement, consider what will work best for your loved one and their unique circumstances.

Include Your Loved One in Decisions

Provide your loved one with as many opportunities as possible to participate in their own care. For example, if you’re assisting them with a task, be respectful and gentle, and empower them to do what they can independently. If you’re performing a task with your loved one, tell them what you’re going to do step-by-step.

For instance, invest in comfortable, loose-fitting clothing with elastics, zippers, and fabric fasteners so they can dress themselves. If you’re assisting them with dressing and grooming, be as gentle and respectful as possible.

Discover everyday care tips to support a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Self-Care Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

It’s important to take time to care for your needs so that you’re the best version of yourself for your loved one every day. Here are some self-care tips to get you started.

Bring Additional Support into Your Life

Family and friends may not realize how they can help or even realize that you need help. It’s important to divide tasks up when and where you can for your own well-being. This can include asking for help with household chores and meals, creating a list of tasks that others can help you with, and utilizing delivery services.

Carve out Time for Things You Enjoy

It’s common for caregivers to feel selfish when they make time for themselves. Remember that prioritizing time for self-care and things you enjoy helps you recharge for future caregiving tasks. Even if you only take 15 minutes per day, it’s still worth reading a book, meditating, painting, putting together a puzzle, or playing an instrument to improve your mood and reduce stress.

Take Care of Your Health

Exercising and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet keeps your body strong, improves your sleep, and reduces stress. Eating healthy foods also provides the energy you need for the day ahead of you. A healthy diet includes proteins, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables while limiting sugars and soft drinks.

Spend Time with Friends

People close to you, such as your friends, are an essential part of a support system. They lower your stress levels by providing a sounding board to talk things through and helping you cope during difficult times. Most importantly, spending time with friends can boost your happiness and well-being.

Resources for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Here are some resources that can support you and provide specific, actionable advice as you navigate your caregiving responsibilities.

Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association offers support groups across the country (you can find one through this link) as well as information, support services, and a help line. The organization also funds research for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America offers caregiving resources as well as support and educational materials for families of those with Alzheimer’s disease. You can connect with the foundation’s helpline via text, chat, or phone call.

National Institute on Aging ADEAR Center

The National Institute on Aging ADEAR Center provides educational materials about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for caregivers and family members.

Home Care Services

With a home care service, an aide comes to your loved one’s residence to help you with day-to-day care tasks. Note that home care aides do not provide medical care and aren’t usually medical professionals. If you need assistance at home and are looking for a medical professional, see home healthcare services in the next section.

Home care aides assist with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing and dressing. They may also help with transportation and errands. To find a home care aide, ask your or your loved one’s doctor to recommend services, or use an online tool like the Home Care and Hospice Locator from the National Association for Home Care and Hospice.

Home Healthcare Services

If you need a medical professional to assist you at your loved one’s residence, you’ll want to consider home healthcare services. These aides are licensed medical professionals who provide skilled nursing care or other medical services as determined by your loved one’s doctor. However, it’s important to note that your loved one will need a doctor’s order to access home healthcare services.

Support Groups

Support groups provide a place where caregivers can confidentially share how they’re feeling and learn from others who are navigating the same challenges. Plenty of different support group options exist, including Alzheimer’s disease or dementia support groups. Different formats are often available because people prefer different types of support that may or may not involve public speaking. For example, you may prefer an online-only group or an in-person group with several other people. 

There’s no right or wrong choice when it comes to finding a support group, and it can take a few tries to find one that feels right for you. To get the most from these groups, you might have to step out of your comfort zone, but it’s important to overcome any reluctance you feel. These groups provide real benefits, and you can commiserate with others in the same situation and share ideas.

Is It Time for Memory Care?

Part of caregiving includes creating a plan for the future and ensuring your loved one has measures in place if additional support is needed in the future. By creating your future plan as early as possible, you provide an opportunity for your loved one to assist in the decision-making process.

One of the decisions to discuss with your loved one is senior living. Memory care communities are specialized senior living communities with specially trained staff who are accustomed to providing care for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Care plans for residents are personalized according to their unique needs, while their routines, preferences, and choices are honored and respected. 


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Be an Effective Advocate for Your Loved One

Being a caregiver is an important role, and the process involves continual learning. To guide you through the process and help you advocate for your loved one, we’ve compiled practical tips and effective strategies in our resource A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care.

Discover everyday care tips to support a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

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