Alzheimer's care: Simple tips for daily tasks

Alzheimer's caregiving takes patience and flexibility. To reduce frustration, consider these tips for daily tasks — from limiting choices and reducing distractions to creating a safe environment. By Mayo Clinic Staff

In the early stages of Alzheimer's, your loved one might still be able to live and function independently. As the disease progresses, however, his or her ability to handle daily tasks will dwindle. Consider practical tips to help your loved one maintain a sense of independence and dignity as he or she becomes more dependent on you or other caregivers.

Reduce frustrations

A person who has Alzheimer's might become agitated when once-simple tasks become difficult or impossible. To limit challenges and ease frustration:

  • Schedule wisely. Establish a routine to make each day more predictable and less confusing. Schedule the most difficult tasks, such as bathing or medical appointments, for the time of day when your loved one tends to be most calm and agreeable.
  • Take your time. Expect things to take longer than they used to. Schedule more time to complete tasks so that you don't need to hurry your loved one.
  • Involve your loved one. Allow your loved one to do as much as possible with the least amount of assistance. For example, perhaps your loved one can dress alone if you lay out the clothes in the order they go on.
  • Limit choices. The fewer the options, the easier it is to decide. For example, provide two outfits to choose between — not a closet full of clothes. Eliminate belts or accessories that are likely to be put on incorrectly.
  • Provide simple instructions. When you ask your loved one to do something, do it one step at a time.
  • Reduce distractions. Turn off the TV and minimize other distractions at mealtime and during conversations so that your loved one can better focus on the task at hand.

Be flexible

Your loved one's ability to function and cope will steadily decline. It might even vary from day to day. Try to stay flexible and adapt your routine as needed.

For example, if a favorite food suddenly becomes unappealing to your loved one, adjust the menu. If your loved one starts insisting on wearing the same outfit every day, consider buying a few identical outfits. When your loved one is bathing, switch the worn outfit for a clean one.

You might also relax your standards a bit. Bathing, for example, might not be necessary every day — especially if it's upsetting for your loved one. Try sponge baths between showers or tub baths.

May. 04, 2013 See more In-depth