Senior Living Q & A: Staying at home with Alzheimer's

Q. My mom was just diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. She would like to stay in her home as long as possible. What can I do to help her achieve this goal?

She can continue to live independently during the early stages of the disease by making simple adjustments, taking safety precautions and having the support of others. Here are some suggestions:

Have her get help with daily tasks. Perhaps you or another family member or a close friend can take care of everyday activities like shopping, cooking, bill paying and housekeeping. Get meals or groceries delivered to her home. Hire a cleaning service to vacuum, dust, mop and do laundry. Ask her bank if they provide services to help pay bills and keep track of accounts. Or have bills paid directly from her checking or savings account.

Use memory aides. Labels, lists, notebooks and sticky notes can help her cope with memory loss. Label drawers to help her find things. Keep important numbers by the phone. Post reminders to lock doors or shut windows. Have step-by-step instructions on how to work appliances (such as the computer) or complete routine tasks (such as fixing her hair).

Take safety measures. Make home-safety improvements, such as installing grab bars in the bathroom to minimize falls. Use appliances that have an automatic shut-off feature. Enroll in MedicAlert + Alzheimer's Association Safe Return to help protect her safety in case she cannot find her way home or if she has a medical emergency.

Plan for the future. At some point, it will become too difficult to live independently. Make plans now for her future care so the family can honor her wishes. A good place to start planning is with CareFinder, the Alzheimer’s Association online guide to help individuals and families find the right care options. It is available at

Be sure she takes her medications as prescribed. Taking her Alzheimer's meds can help minimize symptoms. Consider using a pill box to help her organize medications. Have a family member place pills in the pill box for her. Write down the times to take her medicine on a calendar.

Have a plan to get around. If it is no longer safe for her to drive, there are other ways to get where she needs to go. Family and friends may be able to provide rides. Dial-a-Ride, Access and taxis are available.

Protect her from solicitors and potential fraud. Get her phone number registered on the national do-not-call list by calling (1-888-382-1222). Stop unwanted junk mail by contacting Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, Post Office Box 643, Carmel N.Y. 10512-0643 to be removed from mailing lists.

Encourage her to stay active. Whether it's gardening, dancing, painting, volunteering, playing sports or card games, she will benefit from the mental and social stimulation.

Have her talk to her friends about her memory loss. They may not know how to be with her after she discloses her diagnosis. Have her put them at ease. Encourage her to talk openly about her memory loss and allow them to ask questions. She will get their support and understanding.

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, email it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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