6 Ways to Look After a Parent with Alzheimer’s

When it comes to our parents, we are usually very sensible. But, it can take a lot of patience and flexibility to get rid of frustration, especially when it comes to understanding that your loved ones are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

6 Ways to Look After a Parent with Alzheimer's

Nevertheless, there are some helpful ways to approach this difficult subject. Learn more about ways to take care of your parents with dementia.

Ways that You Can Help Ease Dementia Caregiving

Although it can be hard — especially as the disease progresses — to help look after your parents with dementia, there are things you can do to help ease the frustration and increase your patience while caring for them.

This includes:

  1. Scheduling. In order to keep your parents or loved ones safe, you have to establish a routine that will make your ordinary day more predictable, stable and less stressful. Schedule doctor appointments, bath times and dining for the part of the day your loved ones seem to be calmer. Notice when they seem to become more agreeable, whether it’s the start of the day or the end of the day. This routine can help your parents become familiar with things that should be done in a proper way.
  2. “Cues.” Explain regular, everyday things. For example, if you name a drawer for what is inside, your parent will most likely put things in the correct place you suggested. Do the same thing with your kitchen and bath things. This will ease things for both you and your parents.
  3. Remove danger. Remove things that could endanger loved ones. For instance: knives, car keys and matches. Remember, as a caregiver, you are responsible for little things that could lead to serious problems.
  4. Use technology. Good thing, we are living in the 21st century and have access to great technologies. If you are away, you can set a mobile monitoring service that will track a GPS location and monitor calls and messages. That way, you can look after your parents from your computer and ease any worries you may have while you are away from them. This technology is appropriate for those in the early-mid stage of the disease. You can also help take care of your parents with a home monitoring app that will give you access to your home and inform you of any unusual power supply activity.
  5. Create limitations. Provide limited choices in clothes, for instance, like setting out two outfits instead of a wardrobe. Also limit your instructions to one step at a time. If you are having a conversation, limit surrounding distractions like the TV and radio. It will help your loved ones stay focused on the conversation.
  6. Hospitals. Unfortunately, there are times when we cannot cope with the disease on our own. As frustrating as it may seem, in these moments, you should ask for help. Hiring a nurse is an option for those who need assistance for a couple of hours a day, as it can be expensive. There are also hospitals and senior complexes that will look after your parents while you are on a business trip. You have to adjust to the idea that these places might be a place for your parents if no one is around. In order to find one, you should first consult with your parent’s doctor. Remember to always look for reviews as many people are dealing with the same thing you are and are glad to help.

Do you have any other tips to add to this article about looking after parents with dementia? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Jane Exell

    Create a Caregiving Book so anyone could read the instructions and be able to care for your parent. Include: Med list with the actual pill taped next to the name for easy identification; Doctor’s phone# and address; Emergency contact information (Include Willing Neighbors, Friends ); Durable Medical POA; POLST; Medical Insurance cards; Specific Instructions for care; See my blog…Aidingaging.wordpress.com and read the post named “The Book”

  • Sharon Goulding-Collins

    A great idea! Thank you.

  • How does one Know when the onset, or beginning of Alzheimers commences. What are the early signs, after all as one ages one does not remember things as well as they had done previously. Are there any specific signs, symptoms, to that of generally `ageing`? Some advice please.

    • Paula Green

      memory loss that disrupts daily life is one of the earliest signs of Alzheimers: your parents keep forgetting importnat events like birthdays, holidays, asking the same information over and over, difficulty completing ordinary tasks at home, forgeting and confusing the time and place.

    • Olivia Troyer

      My Grandma began buying clothing gifts for my sisters and I that were not even kind of close to what our actual size was. She would forget about the gifts also and they would be found by someone else months after our birthday (this does not necessarily mean that alzheimer’s is present, however, this is the type of things I saw with my Grandma…when these things disrupt life daily, this is a sign)

  • Elizabeth

    I would welcome comments and suggestions on how to help Mom and Dad, when one partner has full mental capacity at mid 90’s and the other lives with later-mid progression of Alzheimer. We do what we can but they (he) makes all the decisions in the household. Which leaves us worried, as our perception of needed services or care giving concerns are not accepted. Do we respectfully let them be to live their life how they want and unfold to the next step’?

    • Paula Green

      try Pumpic, you will see if he calls 911 and their real-time location. that helped me a lot, I have a sick father and he is the most stubborn person in the world

  • Kara Noya

    My husband and I have four little boys (all under age 7). I am 45 years old. We just found out that my father was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers with dementia, at the young age of
    64. His condition is getting worse. He and his wife (my stepmom) are living 800 miles away, where the rest of my family is. My husband and I want to help him, but there is no way we can move back to my hometown.

    My husband’s family is here where we live, and we both work full time here. We wouldn’t be able to work in my hometown with our current employer. I work in a specialized area of the federal government, so my job is only in a few states. My husband and I met and lived for 10 years across country, and we are both trying to get jobs there. However, now that my father is requiring more and more oversight, I am afraid for our plans of the future. We do not want to stay in this area. We are appx. 800 miles away from my dad now, and we would have to fly if we had to get there immediately anyway.

    What is your opinion? Should we continue our lifelong dream of moving our family back to where we originally lived? Or do we stay here? Now would be the time to relocate, rather than later. Next week I am going to visit my dad and stepmom for a consultation with the neurologist he is seeing. The Dr. has requested that I attend this consultation. I am hoping that sheds some light on the way ahead.

    I am concerned because we have young boys we are raising. My stepmom is taking care of him now, but she has been recovering from breast cancer, so we need a backup plan. I am an only child, so this is all on me. I have a full time job, raising the boys, and my employer will not allow me to just keep going for visits. I believe the answer is for them to move with us when we relocate, or within the next few years.

    Thanks, I really appreciate hearing your opinion. This is all new to me! I just found out about my dad a few months ago.

  • Dawn

    Mom think her son who has passed away is going to hurt her I don’t know what to tell her

  • Dawn

    Can anyone help me my mom keeps on say that my dead brother is say bad thing to her and she is very scared that he is going to hurt her and set house on fire please I don’t know what to do

  • Linda

    Looking for guidance re: my Mom. She is 93 years old; definitely has Dementia. The Doctor is testing to see extent of Alzheimer’s. She’s lived with me for 5 years. Now, she says (daily) she wants to sell car and go “home” to Florida (lived there in 2010). I reminded her she agreed to move here with me in 2010 so I could care for her. She says “I appreciate what you’ve done for me…I have to have my own space and things.” I ask her how she will get there and she replies “I will drive.” I tell her she no longer has a valid driver’s license to which she replies “I guess you’re trying to keep me here as a prisoner.”

  • Shellie

    For my Mom she actually knew something was wrong and commented on it several times. I, not having a clue, reassured her that she was just getting older. But that wasn’t the case. She had beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. Signs can be hard to see sometimes as loved ones are good at covering or making excuses. And if they are living with a spouse still, the spouse may cover for them.

    Some major signs are changes in behavior, missing important appointments, not as concerned about their personal hygiene and wearing clothes over and over again, trouble caring out everyday tasks and withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed, mail stacking up and late payment notices, extreme clutter, dirty house and laundry piling up, spoiled food in the refrigerator or not enough food in the home, bruises or injuries, not taking medication or taking too much medication. These are the types of things that should set off warning signals that your loved one is having trouble and needs to see a doctor. The sooner they see a doctor the better as symptoms can be managed by medications. Medication won’t stop or slow Alzheimer’s but they can help manage the symptoms displayed.

    Start talking with your family as soon as possible too. You will need to work together to handle the things that will occur in the future. Changes will occur and you will need a support system in place. We just convinced my Dad that he needed a break and so we have a home care caregiver come in 2 days a week for 4 hours each day. My Mom is doing fine with the Caregiver and my Dad is doing so much better now, full time caregiving is hard, as he knows he will get some time for just himself. We started out slowly and he was ready so it helped but it took a while to convince him.

    You can also try having a caregiver take them to Doctors Appointments and to run errands. It gives them some freedom if they can’t drive any more and gradually increase the time. I know not all companies will do this so I will mention the company we use and love working with – Qualicare Family Homecare – just in case you want to try it slowly for those who are reluctant to give up their independence. Just keep trying and be patient.

    • Rhonda

      Thanks, this was very helpful and much like the situation I’m experiencing.

  • yelle

    hello since from secondery school i have ever had the passion takx care of the elderly parents .i really love the job and will wish to have any that i can really express my passion

  • SN

    my mom is in her early 60s, she started showing the signs of Alzheimer few years back and it started getting worst after my dad passed away few months back. now she always talk about her childhood and almost forgot all her three children only remember her brothers. She just returned her home after stayed with my sister for few months, she could not recognise her own house where she lived 35years. She is keep complaining that family members are not treating her well though my brother and sister give good care for her. She lost her intimacy with family and think like she is living with strangers. It is very stressful to see her in this situation, she was a powerful and knowledgeable person in my family but now relatives and friends started seeing her differently. As a son it is very difficult for me to see my mom in this situation..

  • Julie Lundell

    Hello, I believe my Dad is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s (his Mom, Grandma and now Sister also had/have it). How do you bring it up to your loved one that you think they should have it checked out by a doctor without offending them? My Dad is a Marine and served in the Korean War – he is very set in his ways and doesn’t think there’s a problem. Any advice would be helpful! Thank you in advance!

    • Alicew234

      We observed a cognitive decline in my mother in law. Both she and my father in law denied there was a problem. “It’s just normal aging,” they said. We said “It may be, but it could also be a kidney problem or low blood sugar. We really think you should talk to the doctor about it.”

      After speaking to my in laws about our concerns, we wrote a letter to the personal physician with specific examples of cognitive deficits we observed and clear statements that the behavior “was out of character.” We asked that our parent be referred for a consultation with a Memory Care Clinic. When the suggestion to have an evaluation came from the doctor, it was accepted. When at the Memory Care Clinic, both of my in laws (the afflicted and the spouse) were much more open about their concerns.

      We also, with their permission, hired a geriatric care counselor- I think she calls herself an Aging Care Specialist. They were not crazy about the idea but we said that she was a professional who could help them get supports put into place to keep them in the home (very important to them both) and helping them find ways to pay for the help. We do not live close by but even if we did, we don’t have any expertise in this area. She is a great help. We interviewed three candidates and chose the one whose personality fit them the best. (She said she would never lie to them and felt strongly that people should make their own decisions as long as they possibly could- even if they were decisions that she herself would not make.)

      I found a great deal of information about the disease online. I especially found a woman named Teepa Snow’s webcasts informative and practical. There is also a book called “I am not sick I don’t need help.” by Xavier Amador that I found very helpful. It deals with schizophrenia and not Alzheimer’s but it was still helpful.

      Good luck. As you probably already know from your experience with other family members, this is a rough road.

      • Julie Lundell

        Thank you for your reply @Alicew234:disqus – I really appreciate you sharing your experiences and advice! My Mom and I want to contact his doctor, but unfortunately neither one of us know his/her name and I wasn’t sure if we could even contact him/her due to privacy. Yes it is a very rough road that I wished had a detour! God Bless You and Your family!

        • Alicew234

          The doctor can’t talk to you without permission. But you can talk to him or her as much as you want! Maybe there is some record of payment or a claim on Medicare that would give you a clue to the doctor’s name. Maybe your dad is seen at the VA?

          It’s great that your Mom is on board with getting help. Maybe your dad has already authorized his medical provider to share information with her. That sort of authorization is often part of the routine intake form now.

          We had good luck with presenting our concerns and suggesting they might have a physical, easily remedied cause. My in laws knew they had a problem. They were just frightened into denial. The idea that someone could fix it got them to the doctor.

          If you find that detour, write a book! .haha

          • Julie Lundell

            Hi Alice, thank you so much for replying back. I found out today that my Dad has a physical scheduled for Mar. 20th – so I am going to take a half day from work and go with him 🙂 Which of course makes me feel better even though my Dad isn’t going to be too thrilled. I’ll let you know what we find out! Thanks again!

          • Alicew234

            Teepa Snow says that under no circumstances should you report to the doctor your concerns about your father’s behavior in front of your father. You should be interviewed separately. Many primary care doctors do an extremely perfunctory mental health exam. In addition, many people can perform well in front of the doctor. Try to get a referral for an evaluation by a geriatric specialist at the very least. You may get a more thorough exam. Many people are three years into this awful disease before they even get a diagnosis because doctors just don’t pick it up. Best of luck to you.

          • Julie Lundell

            I completely agree. I was not planning on telling the doctor my concerns in front of my dad. I’m not mentioning Alzheimer’s or dementia to him at all. He doesn’t think anything is wrong. I’m treating him like I do everyday and being more patient with him when he’s trying to talk and put the words into a sentence. I am making sure I don’t try to finish his sentences and/or interrupt him. Thank you very much for your continued help!

          • Alicew234

            Oh good luck! Everyone in our family was so afraid to broach the topic- or were so deep in denial- that we did not get a diagnosis until mid stage. I don’t think an earlier diagnosis would have changed anything, really. The memory care clinic said that she had Alzheimer’s for at least three years before we brought her to the doctor. My father in law is very upset about that. While it isn’t as if an earlier diagnosis affects the outcome, he says he “took her for granted.”- which is so sad. I’m sorry you are going through this too.

          • Julie Lundell

            Thank you! I was hoping if they diagnosis it early that the medication that’s out there might be able to slow down the process. Is that a false hope?

          • Alicew234

            I do not know enough about the disease to tell you. I hope so. It did not help my mother in law but as I say, we waited a long time before getting a diagnosis. What a concrete diagnosis did do, however, was give us time and motivation to set up paperwork and supports that will help us care for her as she fades away. Just for your information- The VA has special , separate forms for health care and financial POA that are vastly easier to set up if the veteran can help. If your dad will let you, get the regular paperwork and these forms in place.

          • Julie Lundell

            Oh that’s good to know, because my sister and I were wanting him to give us POA – she and I both have POA for my Mom, so I think that’s how I will justify my request when I ask him. Thanks so much for your help, I really appreciate it!

          • Julie Lundell

            Hi @Alicew234 – good news, my sister and I spoke to my Dad on Sunday and he was very receptive – which still amazes, but I am Thanking God! He is going to give us POA 🙂 I’ll let you know how his appointment goes. Hope you have a Blessed day!

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