Alzheimer's: How to help a caregiver
Alzheimer's care is a round-the-clock job. When you offer to help an Alzheimer's caregiver, be specific — and gently persistent.By Mayo Clinic Staff
Caregivers of people who have Alzheimer's disease and other dementias need all the support they can get. If you know someone who's caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease, here's how to help.
General offers of help can be hard for a caregiver to accept. If you want to support a friend who is caring for a loved one, make a concrete offer. For example:
- "I'm going to the grocery store. What can I pick up for you?"
- "I've got a couple of hours free tomorrow afternoon. May I sit in for you while you run errands or take time for yourself?"
- "I doubled my meatloaf recipe so that I could share it with you. I brought enough to last you for several meals."
- "Do you need some laundry done? I can pick it up today and bring it back clean tomorrow."
- "Does your yard need to be mowed? I'd be happy to take care of it this weekend."
Sending a card or calling a caregiver can be a meaningful way to show support. Emails and text messages work, too — but often personal visits are even better. Contact with the outside world can help lift a caregiver's spirits.
Not sure what to say? Consider offering that you know caregiving is hard and you will be there anytime the person wants to talk. Don't assume the person wants tips, resources or advice on caregiving. Listen and offer comfort.
Recognize signs of caregiver stress
Keep in mind that some caregivers have a difficult time accepting help, mistakenly believing they should do everything themselves. This attitude can be harmful not only to the caregiver but also to the person who has dementia. Caregiver stress can lead to irritability, anger, exhaustion, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression and other problems.
If your offers of help aren't accepted, be patient but gently persistent. Remind the caregiver that he or she doesn't have to do this alone — and the best way to take care of someone else is to first take care of yourself.
July 30, 2020
See more In-depth
- 10 ways to help a family living with Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/national/documents/care_10waystohelpafamily.pdf. Accessed May 4, 2020.
- Caregiver stress. Alzheimer's Association. https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/caregiver-health/caregiver-stress. Accessed May 4, 2020.
- Alzheimer's caregiving: Caring for yourself. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-caregiving-caring-yourself. Accessed May 4, 2020.
- Jacobs BJ. How to really help a family caregiver. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-2017/comforting-busy-caregivers-fd.html. Accessed May 4, 2020.