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July 08, 2024

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease

Essential tips and resources for caregivers

Caregiving Alzheimer's

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Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating illness that destroys brain cells, causing memory, thinking, and behavior problems. Over time, people with this disease may need help with routine daily activities as their condition progresses. If you’re taking on a caregiving role for someone with Alzheimer’s, here is some useful information to prepare you for the task.


An estimated 6.7 million Americans aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s, making it the most common form of dementia. Other types include Lewy body dementia and vascular dementia. While there are drugs that can help with the symptoms, the disease remains incurable.

If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you should take time to learn about the disease and get familiar with the many resources available to people with it and their caregivers. You can get reliable information from the federal government and other organizations.


As a caregiver, it’s important to help the person you’re caring for get their affairs in order while they can still make decisions for themselves. They should have a plan for paying for the services they’ll require and a list of people designated to make financial and medical decisions for them when they no longer can.

Communication tips

Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may be unable to properly express themselves or process what people are saying to them. To better communicate with them:

• Use their name, smile, and make eye contact.
• Speak simply and precisely.
• Give them time to understand what you’re saying and respond to it.
• Patiently repeat yourself if necessary.
• Give options instead of asking open-ended questions.
• Learn any nonverbal cues they may use to express themselves.
• Redirect conversations to avoid arguments.
• Don’t take their actions personally.
• Stay calm.

Routine and activities

One way to help someone with Alzheimer’s disease feel more grounded is to establish a routine for them. This means designating times for the person to get up, eat, wash, do other activities, and go to bed at the same time each day. Try planning activities like:

 Household chores, such as laundry and gardening
• Playing simple games
• Dancing or just listening to music
• Taking a walk, doing stretching exercises, or lifting light weights
• Going to a restaurant, concert, movie, or museum
• Visiting friends and family


If the person you’re caring for is still able to get in and out of a bathtub, you can help them bathe or shower. Make sure the tub or stall has safety bars, a nonskid surface for them to stand on, and, if needed, a shower chair. If their illness prevents them from bathing conventionally, you’ll need to give them sponge baths or have a professional help.


Allow the person you’re caring for to dress themselves for as long as they can. To make that easier, you can:

 Buy them loose-fitting, comfortable clothing, preferably with Velcro® fasteners or large zippers instead of buttons.
• Buy them slip-on shoes that won’t slide off, or shoes with Velcro® straps.
• Lay out their clothes in the order in which they should put them on or hand them one thing at a time.
• Only give them access to one or two outfits so they don’t get bewildered by options.

Dental hygiene

People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble brushing their teeth. If this is the case, continue to show them how while letting them do it themselves to the extent that they can. If you need to brush their teeth for them, use a long-handled, angled, or electric toothbrush.


Keep the person’s nails trimmed and take them to the salon or barber shop as often necessary. If they shave, use perfume or cologne, or wear makeup, they may need your help performing these tasks.


Buy healthy foods that you can prepare easily and that the person you’re caring for will eat and enjoy. Try to give them different choices and let them eat at their own pace. Meals can also be a great time for social interaction.

Planning for the future

Caring for someone with advanced dementia is a demanding, full-time responsibility. At a certain point, many unpaid caregivers lack the time, energy, or training needed to provide proper care for individuals who can no longer dress, bathe, or prepare meals by themselves. At this stage, it's essential to arrange for full-time home health care or consider placing your loved one in a memory care unit. Organizations like the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging can help caregivers connect with these services, including some that are available at low or no cost.


You can’t care for others effectively if you’re not making your own health a priority. Practice self-care by eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Make time each day for activities you enjoy and learn when it’s time to say “no” to others.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, alone, tired, or having any of the other symptoms associated with caregiver stress, there are ways to get relief. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a family member, health care provider, social worker, or mental health professional. You can also call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline anytime for support.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is challenging, but planning and education can make it easier. And remember, never lose sight of the fact that you’re providing a great service to the person you’re caring for and that you’re far from alone!

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