Alzheimer's Disease: Your Role as Caregiver

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on June 07, 2021
3 min read

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is a balancing act. You keep your loved one safe and comfortable, keep track of their medications and doctor’s appointments, and give them your love and support. But your life matters, too. It’s just as important to keep up with your work, family, and social life.

In your role as a caregiver, do what you can to bewell informed and prepared, and ask for help and support when you need it.

It helps to keep in mind how the disease affects people who have it. If you know what changes to expect, it can help you understand how your role may be different with time.

  • Alzheimer’s disease is different for everyone who has it. A person’s condition can change a lot. There may be times when your loved one seems pretty normal and can handle their usual activities. Other times, they may be very dependent. The way medications affect them also can vary. The changes can be confusing and may make your loved one seem demanding or dishonest. But it’s just a natural part of the disease.
  • Your loved one’s symptoms will get worse as years go by. While medicines can slow down this progress, they can’t stop it.
  • Depression is a part of Alzheimer's as well. It can make symptoms worse and change how well your loved one manages day to day. It’s important to know the signs they might be depressed and let their doctor know right away.

Use these tips to improve your connection to your loved one and your life as a caregiver:

  • Take time for yourself. Ask other family members, friends, or someone you hire to step in, even just for a few hours, while you run errands, get some exercise, or just relax. You can also look into adult day care programs in your area.
  • Learn as much as you can about your loved one's disease so you’ll know how you can help. You'll also understand what changes to expect in their behavior or symptoms.
  • Don’t do everything for them. People with Alzheimer’s can’t do everything they used to, but they can do some things with a little help. Let your loved one handle some tasks, like getting dressed or folding laundry. Give them time to finish it on their own, but step in when they need help. Help them set goals for completing tasks, and celebrate when they reache them.
  • Talk to your loved one about their family affairs. You should know your loved one's wishes about a living will, durable power of attorney, and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order. Try to talk to them about these things as early in their disease as you can.
  • Don’t put your life on hold. Meet with friends, keep up your hobbies, and stick to as normal a schedule as possible. You’ll be more energized and are less likely to feel resentful in the long run.
  • Have someone you can talk to. You’re there to listen to your loved one and offer support. But you need someone to vent to, too. Talk openly and honestly with a friend or family member. Join a support group to share with others who are also dealing with Alzheimer’s. It helps to know that you are not alone and that other people feel the same things you do.