Guide to Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

Guide to Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s by Sharon Wagner

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Alzheimer’s is a devastating diagnosis that millions of families cope with every year. If you have a loved one with this illness, this guide from What To Do About Mama? will offer you some support.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that makes up about 60% to 70% of the cases of senile dementia. Alzheimer’s disease affects about 6.2 million Americans aged 65 and older. It can be your grandparent, your cousin, your sibling or even your parent who faces the diagnosis. Eventually, those with Alzheimer’s require around-the-clock care, and for many families, that means taking the loved one into their own home.

Signs of Alzheimer’s disease vary depending on which stage the person is in. As a degenerative brain disorder, symptoms become more severe with time. Here, we’ve separated the stages into three basic tiers: mild, moderate, and severe Alzheimer’s disease.

  • With mild Alzheimer’s disease, a person may seem healthy but they begin to show signs of the disorder. Mild Alzheimer’s is characterized by memory loss, poor judgment, consistently getting lost, taking longer to do simple tasks, needing things repeated, losing things, mood disorders, and aggression.
  • As the disorder progresses it becomes moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Signs of this stage include increased memory loss and confusion, cognitive difficulties, disorganized thoughts, difficulty coping with things that are new, hallucinations, paranoia, impulsiveness, restlessness, and increased anxiety and aggression. During this stage, the Alzheimer’s patient needs more intensive supervision and care from those around them, but they can typically stay in their homes.
  • Severe Alzheimer’s disease makes a person completely dependent on others. They need supervision around the clock and access to emergency medical care. Symptoms include a complete loss of communication ability, seizures, skin infections, loss of bowel and bladder control, trouble swallowing, increased sleeping, weight loss, and grunting.

Caregiving for a Person with Alzheimer’s

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the patient requires supervision and assistance for their safety and wellbeing. In the illness’s latest stage, this often means moving the loved one into a skilled nursing facility with a staff that can provide the care they need 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, this care doesn’t come cheaply, with a current average cost of over $7,700 each month. To help cover this expense, many families sell a senior’s home and put the proceeds toward their care. You can get an idea of what your loved one’s home will sell for by looking at its sale price, the size of the mortgage on it, and the taxes and fees for its sale so you can budget for care accordingly.

There is some good news: while those in the severe stage of Alzheimer’s may need to be admitted to an assisted living facility, typically those in the earlier stages can continue living at home as long as a family member or loved one can provide support. There are an estimated 16 million American adults who act as family caregivers for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia every year. If you find yourself in the position of being one of these millions, it’s important to prepare the home you share for their safety as the disease worsens.

  • As mobility becomes an issue, handling steps and stairs becomes more and more difficult for the Alzheimer’s patient. Be sure to keep all their necessities on the first floor and cover inclines with a safety ramp they can safely navigate.
  • The bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house. Place toiletries and things they will need in immediate reach, and make sure they’re clearly labeled. Put locks on cabinets and drawers that hold hazardous items like cleaning products or razors. Install grab bars next to the toilet and tub, and consider installing a shower bench to make bathing easier.
  • The Alzheimer’s patient needs their own space where they can seek privacy and rest. Set up a comfortable room, preferably with direct access to a private bathroom. Place things they like in the room whether it be photos of loved ones, safe crafts to do, or a television. Remove possibly harmful decor and items, especially things that can shatter if broken. Avoid low furniture they can trip over such as coffee tables and ottomans.


Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disorder that affects millions of seniors. As the disease worsens, patients need constant supervision for their wellbeing. While severe Alzheimer’s may necessitate an assisted living facility, during the earlier stages people can generally stay in the comfort of their home with the help of a caregiver. Caregivers provide supervision, security, and emotional support during this difficult time.

You Can Now Work a Bit (and Still Enjoy Retirement) with These 4 Career Ideas

A Guest Post by Sharon Wagner

Photo via Rawpixel

Not every senior is ready to retire, and many more seniors need to continue working to earn an income. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of excellent second-career options for seniors who want or need a partial retirement. What to Do About Mama wants you and yours to thrive throughout all phases of life, so read on for more information.

Don’t Discount Remote Work (in a Range of Industries)

Virtual careers are more popular than ever, and the industry of digital work continues to expand with more than 7 million people working remotely — even before the pandemic. Whether you want to work remotely in sales, marketing, accounting, writing, or customer service, there’s an opportunity out there that’s the perfect fit for you.

To start seeking out freelance work, check out senior-friendly freelance job boards. Most job boards exist online and via apps for your smartphone, so you can start your job search from just about anywhere. Of course, you’ll need a comfortable workspace to do your job, and brushing up on work-from-home tools and platforms will also be a necessary part of beginning remote work.

This may sound daunting, but the learning curve isn’t so steep that it’s impossible to learn, and you may be surprised by how much more productive you can be when working from the comfort of your home.

Consider Travel-Based Opportunities Nationwide

Many retired folks aim to travel during their golden years. However, if the need — or desire — for part-time work has you feeling tied down, you have options.

One travel-based job opportunity can be found in campgrounds and RV parks across the United States. Many camping facilities offer free space rent and even compensation packages for campground hosts, also known as “workamping” jobs. You might combine workamping with another part-time opportunity to support your travel habits and semi-retirement.

Plus, national parks and other spots around the US offer part-time work for people of all ages. You can still travel the country while earning an income without heading to state parks. House sitting has also become a popular way to travel the world while making money.

Earn an Income Near Home (In Others’ Homes)

While traveling to work at National Parks and other spots throughout the country is ideal for many seniors, long-distance travel isn’t doable for others. However, if you are seeking flexible working opportunities near you, think about becoming a house or pet sitter.

Many professionals often travel, leaving their pets and homes unattended in the process. As an experienced professional with a career behind them, you can offer clients reliable services and affordable rates and still make an income.

Plus, serial house-sitting can eliminate the need for a mortgage or rental expenses, explains US News. What’s more, you can travel as near or far as you prefer. Many seniors opt to travel the globe during retirement, while others keep a home to return to as necessary.

Think About Your Passions and Start Selling

Some remote opportunities are technically freelance gigs, where you work for companies as an independent contractor. But you can also make your own work by starting a business and connecting with clients in dog walking, house cleaning, nannying, or a range of other positions.

Whatever passion, hobby, or talent you have, marketing yourself in that niche may prove more lucrative than working for someone else. In fact, as Inc. reports, the statistics show that a 60-year-old startup founder is three times as likely to be successful than someone half their age. Whether your goals are small- or large-scale, there’s an audience willing to pay for your expertise — supporting your retirement goals simultaneously.

Make a Point to Prepare

If it’s been a while since you applied or interviewed for a job, understand that the landscape changed significantly. Cover letter and resume styles have grown by leaps and bounds, so it’s crucial to have the right cover letter and resume for the job you’re seeking. When it comes to interviewing, you already know to dress appropriately and plan ahead for potential questions. However, keep in mind that for a remote position, most companies opt for virtual interviews. Ensure you’re set up with a webcam and a microphone.

Working beyond retirement age isn’t for everyone. However, for those older adults who are aiming to give their career a second life, there are endless opportunities available. While some require an adjustment — and a change of perspective — you only need the motivation to pursue your quasi-retirement dreams.

Look to What to Do About Mama for more information for seniors and their caregivers designed to help them thrive.


My husband and I have been struggling with the concept of his retiring for several years. He is 73-years-old, and I am tired of doing this retirement thing alone. Because of COVID-19, he is currently working remotely from home—a compromise situation that allows him to continue working with me being less unhappy about him doing so. The benefits are:

1. Continued income
2. Constructive use of his time, otherwise hampered by COVID restrictions
3. My having him at home so that I am less lonely

The essay I wrote, “Through the Eyes of a Grandmother”, for “After the Pandemic, Visions of Life Post COVID-19” includes a brief mention of working remotely from home.

Thanks for your guest post, which is of such current interest.

Barb Matthews (co-author of What to Do about Mama?)