Alzheimer's: Dealing with daily challenges

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's? Learn how to meet his or her needs with gentleness and tact.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

People who have Alzheimer's disease often need help handling routine daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, eating and using the bathroom. If your loved one needs this type of care, balance his or her loss of privacy and independence with gentleness and tact.


Bathing can be a confusing experience for a person who has Alzheimer's. Having a routine can help. Try to:

  • Make the bath comfortable. Make sure the bathroom is warm and well-lit. Keep towels handy. Play soft music if it helps promote relaxation.
  • Keep it private. If your loved one is self-conscious about being naked, place a towel over his or her shoulders or lap. Use a sponge or washcloth to clean under the towel. Have him or her help as much as possible.
  • Help your loved one feel in control. Explain each step of the bathing process as you go.
  • Alternate full baths or showers with sponge baths. A full bath or shower two or three times a week is likely enough. In between, wash your loved one's face, hands, feet, underarms and genitals with a washcloth or sponge. It also might be easier to wash the person's hair in the sink rather than in the shower or bath.
  • Never leave a confused or frail person alone during bathing. Have your supplies ready beforehand.


The physical and mental impairment of Alzheimer's can make dressing a frustrating experience. Here are some hints to help your loved one maintain his or her appearance:

  • Provide direction. Lay out pieces of clothing in the order they should be put on — or hand out clothing one piece at a time as you provide simple dressing instructions.
  • Limit choices. Put away some clothes in another room. Too many choices can complicate decision-making.
  • Consider your loved one's tastes and dislikes. Don't argue if your loved one doesn't want to wear a particular garment or chooses the same outfit repeatedly. Instead, consider buying a few pairs of the same outfit.
  • Make it easy. You might replace shoelaces, buttons and buckles with fabric fastening tape or large zipper pulls.
March 03, 2018 See more In-depth