AlzU Blog

The Role of the Caregiver in Alzheimer's Disease

The role of the caregiver changes as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) progresses, dependent largely on which stage of the disease the individual with AD is experiencing. In the very initial stage, for example, the caregiver may be involved in assisting with tasks such as finding the right physician, gathering information about the disease, finding local support groups, or even searching for a physician who specializes in treating AD. 

There are a myriad of emotions that caregivers, family members, and individuals diagnosed with AD may go through in adjusting to the idea of facing a condition that involves memory loss and other changes in thinking skills.  There are many decisions to be made even in the earliest stages of AD such as: which therapeutic measures will be taken, how family members plan to contribute in the care process, and future considerations in caring for their loved one with AD, among others.  Many experts suggest tackling some of the more difficult future issues early on, such as what will happen when the individual with AD is not as able to manage financial considerations, and other life planning issues.  Having this type of discussion in the early stages of the disease will ensure that your loved one is able to have input into future decisions.

Earliest Stages of AD Caregiving

In the early stages of AD, when symptoms have begun but the person with AD is still able to care for themselves, the primary role of the caregiver may be simply to provide support and companionship while helping to plan intervention and/or prevention measures that may slow down the progression of cognitive decline. During the earliest stages, which are covered in great detail in the Introductory lessons available on the Alzheimer’s Universe website((click here to sign-up)), there may be very mild changes in thinking abilities, but the individual with AD has no problem performing daily activities such as eating, dressing and bathing.

The level of assistance required in the early stages of AD can differ quite a bit from person to person, with varying degrees of assistance required.  Caregivers may need to provide verbal cues to help with memory or assist with keeping appointments, paying bills, keeping track of proper medication administration schedules, or helping with complex tasks that require organization.  Providing day planners or other types of calendars, medication schedules and reminders, and other organizational systems may also be very helpful.  Establishing daily routines can often be beneficial during this stage, as well.

Providing emotional support will always be a primary role for caregivers.  In the early stages of AD, the following may be helpful:

  • Encourage the individual with AD to openly discuss any feelings of frustration, fear, or embarrassment with family members and close friends
  • Encourage frequent interaction in social activities and continued involvement in hobbies
  • Help the individual with AD find the right support group and attending physician
  • Identify online support and information on treatment and prevention

Other Tips for Caregivers of Those in Early Stages of AD

  • Encourage independent living for as long as possible
  • Seek education about the disease and identify available caregiver resources
  • Start outlining a plan for the future
  • Make decisions early on regarding who will take over legal and financial issues when necessary
  • Practice living in the moment
  • Consider stress reduction activities such as meditation to help foster staying in the moment
  • Solicit help from close friends and family members when needed
  • Keep in mind that some days will be better than others
  • Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association to find a support group to help caretakers, friends and family members cope with the disease

It is important for caregivers to check on those with AD in the early stages who live alone on a daily basis.  Helping with housekeeping, meals, transportation and paying bills are some of the common ways caregivers can help with AD in the early stages.  Implement safety measures in the home and watch for changes that may occur which may indicate that a higher level of supervision is required.

One of the common difficulties in the early stage of AD may be telling others about the diagnosis due to the stigma surrounding the disease.  Try to be open with close friends and family members while educating others about AD, inviting them to be part of a healthy support system for caregivers and those diagnosed with the disease. To learn more about the variety of stages of AD, as well as the myriad of treatment and risk reduction strategies, sign up for the Alzheimer’s University 25 lesson comprehensive course, which is available here on

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