10 Mistakes Alzheimer's Disease Caregivers Make

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN on July 11, 2021
  • son consoling emotional elderly father
    Avoid These Common Alzheimer’s Disease Mistakes
    Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging. Most of us are forced to learn as we go and have no training in how to help someone whose disease is slowing taking them away from us. As a result, it’s not always easy to know what to do and we may unintentionally make things harder for ourselves and our loved one. By recognizing these common mistakes Alzheimer’s disease caregivers make, you may be able to avoid them.
  • Comforting a friend
    1. Asking “Do You Remember?”
    “Do you remember me?” or “Do you remember Jane?” can be anxiety-producing questions for someone who can’t remember and feels that she should. Instead of putting her on the spot, re-introduce people as they come in, no matter how close they are. If your loved one does remember, she may laugh and say, “Of course I know her!” But if she doesn’t, she’s not pressured to try to remember and perhaps feel like she’s letting you down.
  • Senior Couple Looking Over Medical Papers
    2. Correcting Facts
    A loved one with Alzheimer’s disease may remember incidents incorrectly or come up with an idea that has no basis in reality at all—but in his mind, these things are true. Arguing with him or trying to correct him won’t help and will likely result in confusion or anger that you don’t believe him, and you both end up frustrated and upset. Whenever possible, just agree and change the topic.
  • Mother and daughter looking a computer
    3. Avoiding the Past
    Your father might not remember what he had for breakfast or what his doctor said at his appointment yesterday, but he may remember things he did as a young man or boy. If he’s up to it, ask him about what he liked to do, subjects he enjoyed in school, and the people he met earlier in his life. Look through old photographs and listen to music from his past. Pleasant memories can help lessen the load when it starts to get heavy.
  • middle aged African American woman taking off glasses and pinching bridge of nose
    4. Believing You Should Never Get Upset
    You’re human. Your loved one is human. No matter how far her Alzheimer’s disease has progressed, she still may do things that annoy you. And that’s OK. Your feelings are normal and do count, even if you are a caregiver. If you do get upset or annoyed and you can’t get someone to come in to give you a break, try to step back, take a few deep breaths, and remember not to be so hard on yourself. If you find you’re feeling burned out or overwhelmed, talk to your doctor about ways to find caregiver support.
  • Portrait of a senior couple embracing, outdoors
    5. Forgetting to Laugh
    Funny things can happen when you least expect it. Your loved one may do or say something so unexpected that you burst out laughing. If that happens, don’t feel guilty. It’s normal. And maybe you can introduce regular laughter into your home with favorite comedies on TV or old movies that made you and your loved one laugh years ago. She may not completely understand the storylines, but laughter is contagious, and if you start laughing, she may too.
  • Senior yoga
    6. Easing Off on Physical Activity
    Staying physically active is important for both you and your loved one. The activities may change over time, but it’s vital to keep moving as much as you can. Going for walks or exercise classes when it’s nice outside is always a good option, but there are also videogames you can play at home that help you move (like the Wii game system). You could even hold regular dance or yoga sessions in your living room.
  • senior-man-staring-out-window
    7. Hiding the Illness from Friends and Neighbors
    If you or your loved one have always been fairly private, it may be hard to share his diagnosis with friends and neighbors. But if they know, they can be an extra set of eyes or a helpful presence if something goes wrong. If they know your loved one shouldn’t be outside alone, for example, your neighbors can call you if they spot him on the sidewalk. The more people know, the more they can help.
  • Youth and age: grandddaughter laughing with grandmother on forest walk
    8. Not Asking for Help
    You can’t do it all, no matter how much you’d like to. And you don’t have to. Whether it’s asking someone to help with housework, drive you to appointments, or sit with your loved one while you run an errand, allow others to help you–and ask them. Friends and family might not realize how much help you really need, or they may want to help but not know how. Speaking up gives them that chance.
  • Letting the melody wash over her
    9. Not Taking Time for Yourself
    Before every flight, flight attendants tell passengers they must put on their own oxygen mask before helping someone else. The attendants know you need that oxygen yourself or you won’t be able to function. Think of taking “me time” as using that oxygen mask. It might be grabbing a coffee with a friend or a taking a luxurious bubble bath, but whatever it is, taking a break gives you the energy–the oxygen–you need to continue caregiving.
  • female friends holding hands across table with coffee
    10. Making Promises You Might Not Be Able to Keep
    Many parents or spouses are terrified of being “put in a home,” and they make their loved ones promise they’ll never take that step. But if the care needs become too heavy or you become ill yourself, such a promise can lead to you keeping your loved one at home for longer than is good for either of you. As difficult as it may be, avoid making these types of promises, since it’s impossible to know what the future may hold. Instead, commit to providing the most loving care you can, for as long as you can.
10 Mistakes Alzheimer's Disease Caregivers Make

About The Author

Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN, has been writing health information for the past 20 years. She has extensive experience writing about health issues like sepsis, cancer, mental health issues, and women’s health. She is also author of the book Just the Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Medications and How to Take Them Safely.
  1. Caregiver’s Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors. Family Caregiver Alliance. https://www.caregiver.org/caregivers-guide-understanding-dementia-behaviors
  2. Alzheimer’s Caregiving. NIH Senior Health. https://nihseniorhealth.gov/alzheimerscare/faq/faqlist.html
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 11
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.