Five things you should know when caring for a loved one with dementia

Caregiving for a loved one with dementia can be challenging to your family dynamics, your finances, and more. But did you know, it can also be hard on your emotional and physical health?

Research shows that caregivers for persons with dementia are more vulnerable to health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, anxiety and insomnia.

It is important that caregivers take care of themselves as well as their care-recipients.

1. Find, and attend, a support group.

It takes effort to find, and actually attend, a support group, but the effort is worth it. Support groups offer information, guidance, and well, support. It is important to be around others who understand what you are going through.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a variety of support groups across Oregon that serves caregivers and their care-recipients.

Know that the Alzheimer’s Association serves everyone with memory loss, not just Alzheimer’s.

2. Call your county’s Family Caregiver Support program.

The Multnomah County program provides a wealth of information and can connect you to a variety of helpful services. They may even be able to pay for assistance for you- such as a massage, a care provider to give you a break, a gym pass, etc.

This program is free to all and helps people from all walks of life.

3. Find activities outside the home for your family member with dementia.

This will give your family member a chance to get out of the house and give both of you a break. Both the Family Support Program and the Alzheimer’s Association can help you find classes or adult day programs for persons with dementia.

4. Exercise!

Exercise will help your mood and stress levels and protect your body over the years. A good exercise program will also help you sleep better at night.   Find an activity that you enjoy and make sure it gets your heart rate up. A good starting point is to walk with hand weights. Even better–attend an exercise class at a local community center.

5. Ask for help.

What if you can’t do any of the above? Some caregivers are so busy they have little time for self-care.

I recommend picking up the phone and calling either the Family Caregiver Support Program at 503-988-3646 or the Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900.

Tell them, “I am a caregiver, I need support, but I don’t know how to do this.”

They will take it from there—and you’ll be glad you called.

The main message I want to convey is to reach out to others for support—even if you think you don’t need it.

You don’t have to walk this road alone—there are people standing by who can, and want, to help!




Allison Lindauer, N.P., Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at The Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center.