Caring for someone with dementia — tips for caregivers

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, and it affects memory and thinking skills. In the United States, more than one in nine people aged 65 and older has Alzheimer's.1 Our Chief Medical Officer, talks more about this illness and shares tips for those caring for someone living with Alzheimer's.

Is Alzheimer's disease becoming more common?

Currently, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's approximately every 60 seconds — by 2050, this time frame is expected to become 30 seconds.2 This increase in prevalence is partly due to population growth and people living longer.

As a primary care doctor, what advice do you give to caregivers?

Alzheimer's patients need a lot of care and attention, which can be hard on caregivers. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)  offers many tips for caregivers to consider, such as:

  • Set reminders — help them take their medications regularly.
  • Keep a list — track to-do's, appointments, and events in a notebook or calendar.
  • Plan activities — do something the person enjoys.
  • Stick to a routine — try bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time each day.

What are the realistic goals of Alzheimer's treatment?

The main goals of Alzheimer's treatment are to maintain quality of life; help daily function; improve thinking behavior, and mood; and ensure the patient stays social and is in a safe environment.

Alzheimer's disease may cause patients to lose their independence because it's unsafe for them to live alone. This may lead to a change in setting or lifestyle, which could add more stress. Exploring how this affects their mental well-being allows us to learn how to help the patient and caregiver cope with changes.

Connecting the patient and family to support services, while bringing in a multidisciplinary care team, improves the effectiveness of care.

How does a caregiver determine if their Alzheimer's patient needs a different type of intervention?

Alzheimer's patients often have trouble communicating effectively, so a caregiver should look for changes in behavior.

Dementia behavior changes to watch for

  • Becoming physically aggressive.
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Getting irritated or angry more easily.
  • Having delusions or hallucinations.
  • Pacing or wandering.
  • Showing signs of being depressed.

The National Institute of Health provides tips for caregivers  to cope with these changes in behavior. These changes may be a sign that the disease is advancing, and it may be time to try something different, like palliative care, to manage the symptoms.

Safety considerations for people with Alzheimer's disease

Making simple changes in the home setting leads to better results. Keeping a routine, engaging the patient in activities, and providing constant support build a sense of security while creating a stable environment. 

Always be prepared for emergencies by keeping a list of emergency phone numbers and poison control helplines.

What is palliative care for dementia?

Palliative care is not end-of-life care; it serves to help relieve symptoms and address the emotional and social stress at any stage of Alzheimer's disease. It’s an additional support layer on top of a patient's existing primary care doctor and specialists.

Carelon Health’s Palliative Care encourages caregivers to partner with us to create a strong support system for them and the patient. When we work together, we can gain an understanding of the goals of care and what can be done to help the patient live their best life.

1–2 Us Against Alzheimer's: The Alzheimer's Disease Crisis – By the Numbers (accessed May 2023):