How Do I Deal With Parents Who Have Alzheimers?

by A. Elizabeth Freeman

Alzheimer's disease causes a person to lose the ability to remember conversations, appointments and, as the disease progresses, their family members and common objects, according to Dealing with parents who have Alzheimer's is difficult, especially if you are raising a family of your own or work outside the home. Whether you take care of your parents yourself or place them in a care facility, you need as much support and help as you can get.

Caring for Parents at Home

Step 1

Ask your parent's doctor questions that you may have about the disease soon after receiving the diagnosis. Discuss treatment options and your parent's prognosis with the doctor. Some Alzheimer's patients live for a decade or longer after the diagnosis, depending on their age at the time, according to WebMD.

Step 2

Establish a routine for your parent while she is still living on her own or has moved in with your family. Routines are comforting to people with Alzheimer's, according to Help Guide, especially as the disease progresses and common objects and situations become less familiar. Set a daily wake-up time, as well as bedtime and meal times. Establish regular daily activities, such as a walk.

Step 3

Divide the responsibilities among the members of your family. If you have siblings, decide who will be the primary caretaker or if you will equally split care taking responsibilities. One sibling may be in better shape to handle the financial responsibility while another may be able to prepare meals or take in the affected parent or parents, if necessary. Determining which family member will be responsible for what will help to eliminate conflict down the road.

Step 4

Tell your children what is going on. Explain Alzheimer's to them in an age-appropriate manner, tell them that their grandparents will be moving in with your family and allow them to express their feelings freely. You may also need to ask your children for some help. They may need to do a few extra chores around the house or sit with their grandparents while you're otherwise occupied.

Step 5

Participate in activities with your parent. Activities should be part of your daily routine when your parent lives with you. Pick stimulating activities that your parents can still perform: Walking, gardening or playing a sport such as tennis are activities your parent may enjoy. You may also consider taking your parent to a day center for adults for scheduled activities a few times a week.

Placing Your Parent in a Care Facility

Step 1

Recognize the signs that it is time to send your parent to a care facility for around-the-clock medical attention. If he has medical problems that are beyond your ability to care for, or your own health begins to decline, it may be time to send your parent to the facility. As the disease progresses, your parent's condition may deteriorate enough that you do not feel comfortable leaving him alone for fear that he will cause harm to himself or will wander off and get lost If you and your fellow caretakers feel inadequate to take care of your parent's increasing needs, consider placement in a care facility.

Step 2

Research facilities that are appropriate for Alzheimer's patients. Signs of a good facility include caregivers who help the patients move around, Alzheimer's patients grouped together in activities, and caring, competent nurses and other caretakers. Ask about the staff's training, what activities the facility has for Alzheimer's patients and how much you will be able to contribute to planning your parent's medical care. Always visit the facility before selecting it. Drop by without an appointment after the initial visit to see how the facility functions when not expecting guests.

Step 3

Read the contract the facility offers. Make sure you understand how much it will cost and what services will be covered by health insurance and what you or your parent will be expected to pay. Give yourself extra security by hiring a lawyer to read the documents through for you.

Step 4

Visit your parent regularly while in the facility. You may want to bring a familiar activity along with you, but be prepared to be flexible depending on your parent's condition and mood. Visit at a time when your parents are usually at their best.


  • You may want to see a family therapist or join a support group for children of Alzheimer's patients to help you work through your concerns and fears.
  • Make time for yourself and your family weekly. Schedule time to exercise on your own, read a book or have dinner with your children and partner.

About the Author

Based in Pennsylvania, A. Elizabeth Freeman has been writing professionally since 2007, when she started writing theater reviews for and Theater Talk's New Theater Corps blog. Since then, she has written for Phillyist, TheNest, ModernMom and "Rhode Island Home and Design" magazine, among others. Freeman has an Master of Fine Arts in dramaturgy/theater criticism from CUNY/Brooklyn College.