Daily Care Tips for the Patient with Alzheimer’s

Every day, 15 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. help Alzheimer’s patients with daily activities. Grooming, dressing, and bathing can become challenging as the disease progresses. Depth perception may cause them to feel shaky. Losing control of lifelong personal functions can be embarrassing. While patients should be encouraged to take care of themselves for as long as possible, sometimes they need reminders or assistance.

Here are tips from other caregivers to help you when you need new ideas or suggestions:


• Brush your teeth or comb your hair at the same time as the patient.
• Encourage a woman to continue to wear powder and lipstick.
• Help a man shave with an electric razor.
• Use the patient’s favorite brands of toiletries.
• Prompt the patient to rinse mouth or dentures after each meal.


• Lay out clothes in the order they should be put on.
• Hand the items to the patient one at a time. Direct as needed.
• Limit choices in closets or drawers to two or three outfits.
• Buy several sets of a favorite outfit if the patient wears it repeatedly.
• Shoes should be comfortable and non-slip. Velcro works better than laces.


• Get everything ready before telling the patient.
• Say, “It’s time for your bath/shower.” or “Let’s wash up.” Don’t explain why.
• Always check the water temperature before the patient begins.
• A hand-held showerhead may feel more soothing and avoid the eyes.
• Use a towel to cover shoulders or lap for modesty.


• Plan ahead and try to follow the patient’s lifelong habits and schedule. Familiarity with favorite routines can make tasks easier.
• Use short phrases and specific directions. Instead of saying, “Get dressed,” coach the patient with “Put your red shirt on.”
• Never rush the patient. Allow extra time for all tasks and activities.
• If the patient is resistant, break tasks down. For example, wash one body part each day or ask the patient to put on one piece of clothing while you do the rest.
• Safety is always a priority. Constantly assess the patient’s ability to use toiletries in an appropriate way; stand or balance while performing self-care; and to follow simple directions.
• Bath chairs, mats, railings, and grab bars should be in place before they are needed.
• Remember that distraction is helpful when the patient becomes anxious or agitated. Don’t try to reason or explain, just point out something else to avoid an upset.

Whether you provide care for a person with Alzheimer’s as an unpaid family member or as a paid professional, you want to do make each day the best it can be. Starting with the basic care that’s needed for hygiene and comfort, find time to learn from others who have been giving care for years. Take advantage of their wisdom and adapt their tips to your own situation. You may develop some advice to share, too!