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Family Caregiving

Ginzler: Alzheimer's Caregiving

Understand the signs and get tips on coping.

Tips for Keeping Your Loved One Engaged

If you've got a family member with an Alzheimer's or dementia diagnosis, there are many ways you can learn to cope. One suggestion: Focus on fun activities for you and your loved ones. There are a host of things you can do to keep them active and engaged:

  • Socialization and Outings. Get them out of the house, go places, do things, see people.
  • Discuss Current Events. Look at and discuss newspaper or magazine stories, preferably with color pictures.
  • Cook Together. This will probably take longer than you could do it yourself, but you'll have precious time with your loved one. Remember, safety first.
  • Exercise Daily. This can help stave off the progression of Alzheimer's, and keep your loved one fit. It's good for you, too.
  • Play Brain Games. Whether it's Sudoku or memory games, these mental challenges help key parts of the brain active.
  • Share Memories With Old Photos. These can be fun trips down memory lane, and a good opportunity to document family history.
  • Listen to Music. Music has an extraordinary ability to conjure up emotions and memories.


All of these efforts will keep your loved one active and reinforce a sense of independence and dignity while interacting with family and friends.

Make Life Easier for Someone With Alzheimer's

These tips make life easier for both your loved one and yourself. Caregivers need to do all they can to make daily routines easy, or you'll end up with caregiver burnout, just when you're very much needed

  • Keep an Emergency Contact List. Post the list—remember to use BIG PRINT—in a prominent place in the house. Share the list with family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Picture Phone. A picture phone can make it easier for the Alzheimer's patient to stay in touch with loved ones.
  • Organize and Label. Buy a label-maker, and label drawers, closets, and cabinets—for instance, SOCKS. This can help avoid confusion around dressing for some Alzheimer's patients.
  • Simplify and De-clutter. Get rid of unnecessary clutter, and limit choices. Dad only needs to choose between two pair of shirts every day, not 15.
  • Set a Regular Routine. Routine is key, whether it is the routine for the whole day, or for one task. If Dad needs help putting on his socks and shoes, do it the same way every day. Left sock first, left shoe second, right sock third, right shoe fourth. This will provide predictability and make getting dressed easier.
  • Use Visual Cues. Another way to help someone with Alzheimer's deal with the confusion is to identify places through pictures or other visual cues. Put a picture of the bathroom on the bathroom door, that way they'll know what's behind the door.


AARP has recently produced two videos for helping family caregivers. I encourage you to watch "When Memory Loss Hits Home," which shows how one family made low- to no-cost fixes to their home, as well as changes to their routine, to better assist their loved one, who living with Alzheimer's.

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