Day-to-Day Living With Alzheimer's Disease

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on April 14, 2022
5 min read

Living with Alzheimer's disease is a challenge for anyone. You’ll have good days and bad days. But there are some things you can do to help your memory, plan your day, and get around.

As it gets harder to remember things, you can use a few strategies to help your memory. You may have to try a few different ones before you find what works for you. To start:

  • Keep a notebook or smartphone with you to keep track of important information, phone numbers, names, ideas you have, appointments, your address, and directions to your home.
  • Put sticky notes around the house with reminders for yourself.
  • Label cupboards and drawers with words or pictures that describe their contents.
  • Ask a friend or family member to call and remind you of important things you need to do during the day, like taking medication and going to appointments.
  • Keep photos of people you see often, and label the photos with their names.

  • Focus on things you enjoy and are able to do safely on your own.
  • Take advantage of the times of the day when you feel best. It will be easier to get things done.
  • Allow yourself the time to do what you need to do. Don't feel like you have to hurry or let other people rush you.
  • If something gets too hard, take a break.
  • Ask for help if you need it.

You may not be able to find your way around as well as you used to, even in familiar places. Take steps to prepare, such as:

  • Ask someone to go with you when you go out. Take directions with you, even if you’re going somewhere you’ve been before.
  • Ask for help if you need it. If you want to, you can explain that you have a memory problem.

Keep these tips in mind when you’re trying to talk with others:

  • Always take your time, and don't feel like you need to rush.
  • If you need to, ask the person you're speaking with to repeat what they are saying or to speak slowly.
  • Avoid distracting noises, and find a quiet place to talk.

It can also be helpful for your loved ones to adjust how they communicate with you. Here are some tips for talking with someone who has Alzheimer’s:

Get their attention. Make sure you have your loved one’s attention before you start talking. Approach them from the front, identify yourself, and call them by name.

Be attentive. Show that you’re listening and trying to understand what they are saying. Keep eye contact as you talk. Use a gentle, relaxed tone of voice and friendly facial expressions.

Hands away. Try to keep your hands away from your face when you’re talking. Also, avoid mumbling or talking with food in your mouth.

Mind your words. Speak distinctly, but don't shout. Try not to talk too fast or too slow. Use pauses to give the person time to process what you're saying. Use short, simple, and familiar words.

Keep it simple. Give one-step directions. Ask one question at a time. Call people and things by name instead of “she,” “they,” or “it.”

Be positive. Instead of saying, "Don't do that," say, "Let's try this."

Treat them with respect. Don't talk down to them or speak to others as if they are not there or don’t understand you.

Rephrase rather than repeat. If the listener has a hard time understanding what you're saying, find a different way to say it. If they didn't understand the words the first time, they probably won’t get them a second time.

Adapt to your listener. Try to understand the words and gestures your loved one is using to communicate. Don't force them to try to understand your way of conversing.

Reduce background noise. Noise from the TV or radio makes it harder to hear, and it competes with you for the listener's attention. Cut down on any sounds that will distract them.

Be patient. Encourage them to keep expressing their thoughts, even if they have trouble getting them across. Be careful not to interrupt. Try not to criticize, correct, or argue with them.

Remember that nonverbal communication is important for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Your presence, touch, gestures, and attention can remind them of your acceptance, reassurance, and love.

Talk to your doctor at each visit about driving. At some point, it may no longer be safe for you to drive. Until that happens, try to drive only in areas that you know well so you won’t get lost. Ask the Department of Motor Vehicles about testing your driving skills.

Just because you no longer drive doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get where you need to go. You can ask friends and family members to give you rides to appointments and errands. Also, you can ask someone to set up services like Uber or GoGoGrandparent on your phone. If you need more ideas, contact the Alzheimer's Association.

To make sure you’re safe and have what you need at home, put some of these measures in place early so they become routine:

  • Look into getting help with things like shopping, housekeeping, meals (including home-delivered ones), and transportation. The Area Agency on Aging or a local Alzheimer’s organization can recommend some services.
  • Ask a neighbor you trust to keep a set of your house keys.
  • Ask a friend or family member to help you organize your closets and drawers to make it easier to find things.
  • Keep a list of important and emergency numbers by the phone.
  • Have family, friends, or a community service program call or visit daily to make sure everything is OK.
  • Ask someone to check your smoke alarm regularly.

Call your bank to arrange for direct deposit of checks, such as your retirement pension or Social Security benefits.

Choose someone you trust to handle your finances in case you’re no longer able to. Then visit a lawyer to designate any living will or power of attorney that you may need.

It’s important to realize that at some point, it will be too hard or dangerous for you to live by yourself. But in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, many people do manage on their own with support and help from friends, family, and community programs. Simple changes and safety practices can make a big difference.