Daily Care Needs for Someone with Alzheimer's Disease
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2019
The middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease, or moderate Alzheimer’s disease, can last for many, many years. A person's functioning at the beginning of the stage looks very different than it does at the end of the stage, and it’s helpful to provide assistance with daily activities and care needs as necessary.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it damages the brain more and more, making it harder to do basic things like bathing or getting dressed. Family members and caregivers can work with an individual with Alzheimer’s disease to help create ways to meet their daily needs and ensure they are comfortable.
Creating a daily care plan for a loved one with Alzheimer's
A daily care plan is a plan that outlines the plan or routine for the day, including the most basic things a person does. The plan isn’t meant to be rigid, but simply an outline or a general guide.
Depending on the person’s functioning that day, it can change or be adapted as needed.1Caregivers can develop the plan with the person with Alzheimer’s to gauge how much assistance is needed with each activity. The plan can be broken down into morning, afternoon, and evening, and things like brushing teeth, toileting, personal care, and mealtimes should be included along with various other activities.
Tips for the Alzheimer's caregiver: Bathing
During the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the person might stop bathing for a bit, or forget they need to bathe, or even become combative about it or afraid of bathing. It can be challenging for the caregiver, but it’s important. Some things that can be done to help the person with Alzheimer’s bathe include:2
- Try to follow their regular routine (ie, bathing time, setting, etc)
- Don’t leave them alone because weakness and confusion can be fall risks
- Check the water temperature of the shower or bath
- A hand-held shower head can be easier to manage for both patient and caregiver
- Use adaptations like shower chairs, grab rails, rubber bath mats, and more
- Have the bathroom be warm and well-lit
- Act with respect and gentleness, and be patient
- Soft music might help calm the person
- Get everything ready ahead of time: soap, shampoo, towel, washcloth
Tips for the Alzheimer's caregiver: Getting dressed
At some point in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease, a person may become confused and not be able to pick out appropriate clothing for the season or occasion, or they may have trouble figuring out how to get dressed. They might become overwhelmed when deciding what to wear or become upset when they can’t understand what to do. A person with Alzheimer’s should be encouraged to get dressed independently as long as they can, with minimal interference or supervision.2
Once they need assistance, here are some things a family member or caregiver can do:2
- Put the clothes out in the order in which they should be put on; ie, first underwear, then clothes, then socks/shoes, etc.
- Give the person one piece of clothing at a time
- Take out excess clothing from the drawers or closets to cut down on choices, or only provide a couple of outfit choices at a time
- If the person wants to wear the same thing every day, consider buying multiples of preferred items of clothing
- Make sure clothing is loose-fitting and comfortable
- Choose clothes without complicated clasps or zippers, and consider Velcro shoes or slip-ons instead of lace-up ones
Tips for the Alzheimer's caregiver: Grooming
Aside from basic hygiene, personal grooming is important. People feel good about themselves when their grooming needs are met, and people with Alzheimer’s are no different. Caregivers can help a person with Alzheimer’s with daily grooming activities in the following ways:2
- Show the person how to brush their teeth, step-by-step; let them do it themselves as much as possible – if need be, brush your teeth at the same time
- Assist with denture cleaning
- Assist with flossing and mouthwash rinsing
- Take the person to see a dentist regularly and ask the dentist if there is anything special that needs to be done
- Assist with makeup application if wanted
- Assist with shaving for safety
- Take the person to the barbershop or beauty salon, or have the hairdresser come to the home
- Make sure fingernails and toenails are cut and clean
- Brush hair regularly
Daily care needs for the person with Alzheimer’s can change over time, especially with the amount of help the person requires. Some of these things might seem superfluous, but they can help the individual feel like their old self and help them feel good. Caregivers should make sure the person sees their doctor regularly, and talk to the doctor about any daily care needs that may come up as Alzheimer's progress, or if there are any issues caregivers should keep in mind.