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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Caregiving: Be There for Your Older Loved Ones

By Mary Jo DiLonardo
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by William Blahd, MD

When you help a loved one through some of the big life changes that come with aging, you'll share the good times and some of the tougher ones. Be prepared with these tips.

Move to -- Not From -- Home Sweet Home

As people get older, their needs change. The home they live in might not work for them anymore.

For example, your mom may need a bedroom on the first floor so she doesn't have to climb stairs. Or maybe she needs a little help and it's time for her to move in with you or other relatives. If she eventually needs more medical or personal care than your family can give her, you might discuss the option of an assisted living space or a skilled nursing home.

Keep your loved one involved in as many decisions as possible. If possible, give her a choice between different apartments, condos, or assisted living communities. If your mother moves in with you, for instance, let her choose a paint color for her room and decide how to arrange the furniture. Give her space she can call her own.

"Just because you're older doesn’t mean you don’t get to make decisions for yourself," says internist Cathy Alessi, MD, past president of the American Geriatrics Society.

Old pictures. Books. Clothes. Sorting through items -- deciding what to take and what to leave behind when you're moving somewhere new -- can be sad for an older person. It's revisiting a lifetime of memories, says clinical psychologist Sara Honn Qualls, PhD, director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

She suggests making it a move to, rather than from.

"Instead of letting go, focus on what are good things to put into that new apartment or new place. Move to a place with the items that are appropriate; then figure out what to do with everything that's left over."

Concerns About Driving

It can be hard for an older person to give up their car keys. It’s really not about the driving. It’s the loss of independence. For many, driving keeps them active and involved in their communities. Not being able to get around by themselves can affect their quality of life and lead to sadness and even depression.

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