Tips for Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers


Tips for Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers

When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, many times a friend or family member will step up to serve as the caregiver for that individual if a full-time nurse or home health professional is not a available. This often means that the primary caregiver does not have any experience with geriatrics or nursing, they are not home health or assisted living professionals. With that said, I think it may be helpful if we devote a post to some tips for caregivers.

The first aspect of being a primary caretaker is riding the waves of the constantly changing emotions and behaviors. As the National Institute on Aging points out in their “Caregiver Guide,” “Dressing, bathing, eating – basic activities of daily living – often become difficult to manage for both the person with Alzheimer’s and the caregiver. 1” With that said, while every person is different, I hope these tips can help you care for your loved one.

When your friend or loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and you determine you will be one of the caregivers, take some time to learn about the disease and how it affects a person’s body and mind. Reach out to organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association or the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) for information about treatment options and get resources developed specifically for caregivers. Especially if you are not a trained nurse or home health professional, there is no shame in not knowing about the disease, you are not alone1!

With that said, all the information in the world sometimes doesn’t alleviate the emotional stress. Let’s take a second to be real – it is not easy to care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. I understand being a caretaker can feel overwhelming and stressful at times, but just know you are not alone with those feelings. You are fueled by your love for your family member or loved one and I want to encourage you to take time for yourself when you can. If possible, check out a support group in your area to find people that can back you up when you need help1. Never be afraid to seek out professional help through a home health provider or geriatrics nurse who does house calls.

Routines are extremely helpful when caring for your loved one. Take notice to times in the day when your loved one seems to be more cooperative and take advantage of those times in your routine. With that said, always be prepared in the back of your mind to be flexible as their moods may change day-to-day. When it comes to normal daily activities like eating and bathing, simpler is always better, which usually just requires careful thought and planning1. Minimize options for them to choose between such as what to eat for lunch or what shirt to wear with their jeans and prepare to be patient in the decision-making process1.

Communication can be challenging when it comes to comprehension from both parties. While you may get frustrated, it is important as the caregiver to pay attention to your tone, pace and word choice. Try to be very clear and simple and avoid sounding patronizing or demeaning (which sometimes can happen without even realizing it) 1. If they misspeak, it is not effective to correct them, just move on with what you know they meant to say.

For more specific tips for caregivers of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, please check out the full article from the National Institute on Aging1.

1Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (2010) Caregiver Guide: Tips for Caregivers of People with Alzheimer’s Disease. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved April 26, 2014 from