An older man using a walker is being helped by a younger man while walking outside on a stone path

Do you know how to help a dementia or Alzheimer’s caregiver? Do you know someone who provides care for someone else?

Look around you. I bet someone that you see around you is a caregiver.  There’s a one in five chance that someone you know IS a caregiver.

the number of caregivers is increasing

53 million. That’s the estimated number (as of 2020*) of U.S. Adults who are caregivers. That’s an increase of almost 10 million adults from 2015. Almost 90% of those caregivers provide care for a relative, either a parent or in-law; a spouse/partner; a grandparent; or an adult child. 

Due to a number of factors including the increasing number of baby boomers and people living longer, the number of people providing caregiving assistance is increasing.

An infographic showing caregiving statistics in 2020 in the US
*2020 report by The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP

Signs of caregiver stress

Providing care day in and day out, often with no relief, takes a toll on the caregiver. Add to that, many caregivers are also working as well. Over time, it takes a toll on the body and the psyche. You may find the caregiver showing some, if not all, of these signs of stress.

  • Tired, often sleep deprived or sleeping too much

  • Worried/easily irritated/easy to be angered

  • Weight gain/loss

  • Sad/depressed

  • Lost of interest

  • Physical problems – headaches, body aches

  • drug/alcohol abuse

  • Overwhelmed

  • Alone/isolated/deserted

  • Difficulty concentrating

What caregivers need most from you

Being a caregiver is a tough job.

It’s very tough as a caregiver to outright ask someone (neighbors, friends, relatives, church members, etc.) for help.

But, don’t wait for the caregiver to ask, because he/she probably won’t. I didn’t ask someone for help until it got to the point where I was afraid to leave my mom by herself.

You can find out more about my mom here.

Reach out, make the offer and follow through. In fact, don’t offer, just tell the caregiver what you’d like to do.

Here’s how you can help a dementia caregiver –

  • Watch their loved one for a while so the caregiver can have a break both inside and outside of the home

  • Sit with the loved one with dementia and chat, watch TV, do puzzles, etc

  • Cook a meal for them or bring a meal to the house

  • Offer to clean the house or a few rooms

  • Go grocery shopping for them

  • Run their errands or stay with the loved one and let the caregiver run errands or take some personal time

  • If you’re comfortable, take the loved one somewhere for a change of scenery – ie, park

  • Household chores

  • Lawn mowing

  • Leaf raking

  • Make contact with the caregiver, let them know you care about them

  • Give them emotional support

It would be even better if you could do this on a regular basis, like once a week or once every two weeks.

3 friends sitting at table talking with the title How to Help a Dementia Caregiver

My mom had several good friends from the neighborhood and they all played bridge. Those ladies picked up my Mom and took her to lunch then they went and played cards. Mom’s ability to play bridge dwindled as her dementia progressed so I’m sure that was frustrating to all of the ladies.

What I wished they had done instead, and I could kick myself for not mentioning this to one of the ladies, was to take turns coming over to the house and just sitting and talking with Mom. She really would have enjoyed that.

Chances are, your loved one may initially notice that the so-called “friends” don’t come around as much as they used to and contact with them will dwindle out eventually. However, this is the time when people with dementia need that contact the most. There’s still a person there and they do get bored. A change in their day may be a good thing. Keep in mind that your visit may also help the caregiver by giving them a break.

So, how can you help a caregiver of Alzheimer’s patients? Check the list above for ideas. Make the offer of support and follow through on it. I can guarantee it will be very much appreciated.