No two people experience Alzheimer’s disease in the same way. As a result, there's no one approach to caregiving. Your caregiving responsibilities can range from making financial decisions, managing changes in behavior, to helping a loved one get dressed in the morning.
Handling these duties is hard work. But by learning caregiving skills, you can make sure that your loved one feels supported and is living a full life. You can also ensure that you are taking steps to preserve your own well-being.
This section provides information on Alzheimer care strategies. Experiment to find those that work for you and the person you care for.
Please choose a link below to find helpful, timely information.
For better safety, evaluate your environment
If you are part of a family living with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to remember that one of the keys to aging at home is doing so safely. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s does not have to signal the loss of independence and freedom. As many as 70 percent of people living in the United States with Alzheimer’s today are doing so in their own homes. Safety at home begins with adapting the environment to support the changing abilities of the person with Alzheimer's. Be sure to re-evaluate home safety measures regularly as the disease progresses.
A person with dementia may be at risk in certain areas of the home or outdoors. Pay special attention to garages, work rooms, basements and outside areas. Inside the home, there are simple things you can do to modify your kitchen, living room, bathrooms and bedrooms to make it safer for the person with Alzheimer’s:
- Invest in installed, working fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.
- Lock or disguise hazardous areas using child-proof locks and doorknob covers and limit access to places with knives, appliances and poisonous chemicals.
- Minimize clutter and limit access to stairs to reduce risk of falls.
- Enroll the person with dementia in MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®, a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia who wander or have a medical emergency. You may also want to consider the
Alzheimer’s Association Comfort Zone™, powered by Omnilink, a Web-based GPS location management service.
For more tips on home safety, including concerns about wandering, disaster preparedness, traveling with Alzheimer’s and medication safety, visit the Alzheimer’s Association Safety Center at www.alz.org/safetycenter or call 1.800.272.3900.
Safer travel for those with dementia
Whether you’re considering a weekend getaway or an extended stay, traveling with an individual who has Alzheimer’s requires additional thought and precaution. Persons with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers need to be prepared for a change in schedule and environment. Even if it is a trip you have taken before, it may feel new for the person with the disease.
Additionally, as the Alzheimer’s progresses, negotiating changes in environment will become increasingly challenging. Be prepared for the individual with the disease to experience some confusion or disorientation. Exercise caution, as wandering and getting lost are more likely during transitional times. The checklist below will help you plan for the trip and make it successful and safe.
- Call the Alzheimer’s Association chapter in the area you will be visiting. Let them know you will be staying in the area and ask about available resources. You can locate any chapter by calling 1.800.272.3900 or visiting www.alz.org/apps/findus.asp.
- Enroll the person in MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®, a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals with Alzheimer’s or a related
dementia who wander or have a medical emergency. You may also want to consider the Alzheimer’s Association Comfort Zone™, powered by Omnilink, a Web-based GPS
location management service.
- If you are already enrolled in MedicAlert, update your records with temporary contact information (call 1.888.572.8566).
- Let the neighbors know a person with Alzheimer’s is staying next door and ask them to keep their eye out for wandering or other unsafe behavior.
- During the first few days after arrival, keep your schedule light with lots of down time.
- Create opportunities to re-acclimate the person to the new environment.
- Keep familiar things around.
- Limit access to money and credit cards.
- Limit access to driving.
- Be aware that the change can be chaotic for the person.
- Recognize the warning signs of anxiety and agitation.
For more tips on safety for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related
dementias, including concerns about wandering, disaster preparedness, home and medication safety, visit the Alzheimer’s Association Safety Center at
www.alz.org/safetycenter or call 1.800.272.3900.
Video Caregiving from Terra Nova Films
This new website features streaming videos aimed at helping the nation’s estimated 50 million family caregivers— family members, friends, even neighbors -- all of whom provide some form of unpaid, in-home continuing care. Among the goals of the site are to help the caregiver better understand and deal with their situation, but also to remind them they are neither isolated or alone in their struggle. Click here to view films >>
Facts about the site:
The videos on the Web site are original footage, documentary in style, focusing on real stories of real people in real circumstances. All are drawn from films either produced or distributed by Terra Nova Films, a company that has for more than 27 years been a leader in the use of video in the training and development of tens of thousands of professional caregivers, ranging from doctors and nurses to college professors and social workers, even lawyers and police. An advisory team of representatives from the leading caregiving organizations and a production team of experts on caregiving and Alzheimer’s disease came together to create this resource, which offers specific caregiving topics on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The 5-8 minute videos are simple, clear and to the point. Every video can be played by itself or alongside a text portion that summarizes the piece and offers information that takes the user “beyond the video.”
Preliminary users call the site groundbreaking for its use of video -- going beyond the statistics and numbers -- to show the human struggle taking place in millions of households throughout this country. The Web site is a place where “seeing is not only believing…but also caring.” Long-time journalist and award-winning documentary producer Bill Kurtis speaks to the storytelling power of the visual imagery on the site in his introduction.
Behavior and Personality Changes
Have you experienced difficult behaviors as a caregiver? It's often hard to know what to do in frustrating situations. Below is a list of common situations that occur between those with Alzheimer's disease and their care partners. But, the number one rule is this: It is the disease and not the person. Try to remember this fact when times become frustrating.
- DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
- Realize you can't expect logic or "reason" to work as it did before
- Don't force a person to participate in conversation that she doesn't want to
- Suspicious behavior: Use reassuring and calm responses. Avoid reacting defensively
- Hallucinations: Don't try to reason with the person. Comfort their fears instead.
- Rummaging: Don't scold or tell a person to quit but use distraction instead
- Catastrophic reactions: It's not helpful to restrain the person but better to remove the stressor, if possible. Offer reassurance, seek a calmer environment, use soothing music afterwards.
- Wandering, pacing, roaming, compulsively following the caregiver: Try to understand why the behavior is happening. For example, is the person trying to get away from an intolerable situation or scary feelings? Is the person hungry? Bathroom hunting? Boredom? Daily walks could help with restlessness.
- Sundowning: This symptom happens in the late afternoon or early evening hours. The person may appear agitated or restless. Try a daily walking routine or other regular exercise at this time. Also, turn on lights to help resemble day time sunlight. Try a refocus activity to distract the person.
Click here to learn more about Alzheimer's disease or call us at 800.272.3900 to speak to an Alzheimer's Association Care Consultant.
Alzheimer's Association Online Resources
To learn more about ways to be an effective caregiver, check out our online publications.