Family caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia/memory impairment face an extraordinary challenge. There’s a big learning curve, and you need all the help you can get. Fortunately, a lot of outstanding resources are available. This Dementia Caregivers Toolbox gathers a few of those tips and resources into one place so you can conveniently start finding the support and information you need.
Helpful Tips for Dementia Caregivers
- Start building a support network. A lesson from dementia caregiving 101: Caregiving alone is nearly impossible. From the normal household activities like cooking, cleaning and running errands to care-related help like transportation to medical appointments, assistance with dressing or medication management, there are plenty of ways people can make caregiving a little easier. Talk with family, friends or volunteers, and recruit a network of people who can support you and your loved one in this journey.
- Create an emergency contact list. Whether you’re caring for your loved one at home or they’re in a memory care community, be prepared for the unexpected by having an emergency contact list. Have the number for a designated “go-to” person who can be there on short notice. Also include phone numbers for family members who might need to be notified, your loved one’s medical provider, insurance provider, pharmacy, and any additional caregiving services you might use. Keep the list on your phone, and print a copy and post it in a prominent place at home.
- Pack a “go” bag. Having overnight bags ready for you and your loved one will make any unexpected hospital visits more comfortable. Include water bottles, nonperishable snacks, tissues, a blanket and travel pillow, headphones, phone charger, a change of clothes, and something familiar like a comfort toy or photos of family members.
- Schedule respite time. You can’t take care of someone else if you don’t take care of yourself. Put some self-care time on the calendar, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day. You can also explore respite stay options at senior living communities near you so you can have a few days without being a caregiver.
- Organize medical information. If you haven’t done so already, consolidate and organize your loved one’s medical information. Paperwork, prescriptions, appointments, multiple doctors, insurance communication — it can become overwhelming if you don’t find a way to organize it all. If that’s not your strong suit, ask one of your support folks to help you figure out a system that works for you.
It’s important you have people to talk with who understand what you’re going through. Support groups for caregivers of dementia patients are a healthy way for you to share your feelings and experiences in a nonjudgmental environment. In addition to checking for support groups through your house of worship and community-based senior services organizations, here are a few other support resources to explore:
- Alzheimer’s Association — Search for a local chapter.
- Facebook Support Groups — Here are two of many groups to check out:
- Creating Moments of Joy Along the Alzheimer’s Journey: A Guide for Families and Caregivers
- Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s: A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone Dealing with the Disease
- When Someone You Know Has Dementia: Practical Advice for Families and Caregivers
- The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss
- 2019 Books for Caregivers
- Alzheimer’s Association — Plenty of articles, videos, research and support.
- National Institute on Aging — This Alzheimer’s and related dementias caregiving page offers helpful information.
- Caregiver Action Network — A general resource page for caregivers, but it also has information for those caring for someone with dementia.
- Find a Community — This locator tool can help you find a local senior living community that has respite care and memory care.
Articles & Videos
- Handling Dementia-related Behaviors
- Transitioning to Memory Care
- 10 Real-life Strategies for Dementia Caregiving
- Making Financial Plans After a Diagnosis of Dementia
- How to Help Alzheimer’s Patients Enjoy Life, Not Just ‘Fade Away’
- The Art of Living with Dementia (video) — Hear how one caregiver learned to use the arts, creativity, humor, education and technology to inspire, empower and enhance the quality of life of those affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Art and Dementia (video) — Interacting with loved ones who have dementia is increasingly difficult as the disease progresses. But programs that connect these individuals with art provide unexpected interactions and clarity.
- Caregiver Tactics (video series) — Find out how you can stay connected with your loved one by hearing what’s worked for others.
Technology & Products
- Top Caregiver Apps in 2018
- Tech Solutions that Make Life Easier for Dementia Care
- 10 Lifesaving Location Devices for Dementia Patients
- Technology 101 — Information from the Alzheimer’s Association.
- AbleData – Use the terms “alzheimer’s” or “dementia” to search this database of products that may be helpful in day-to-day caregiving.
No matter where you’re at in your caregiving journey, you’re not alone. There are resources and support for your whole family as you consider memory care choices for your loved one.