People with dementia experience a range of symptoms related to changes in thinking, remembering, reasoning, and behavior. Living with dementia presents unique challenges, but there are steps you can take to help now and in the future.
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias get worse over time. Even simple everyday activities can become difficult to complete. To help cope with changes in memory and thinking, consider strategies that can make daily tasks easier. Try to adopt them early on so you will have more time to adjust. You can:
- Write down to-do lists, appointments, and events in a notebook or calendar.
- Set up automated bill payments and consider asking someone you trust to help manage your finances.
- Have your groceries delivered.
- Manage your medications with a weekly pillbox, a pillbox with reminders (like an alarm), or a medication dispenser.
- Ask your doctor to provide a care plan and write down care directions (or have a family member or friend take notes during the visit).
Dementia often changes a person’s sleeping habits. You may sleep a lot, or not enough, and wake up many times during the night. Poor sleep quality can make dementia symptoms worse.
Tips for better and safer sleep:
- Follow a regular schedule by going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when traveling.
- Develop a relaxing bedtime routine with lowered lights, cool temperature, and no electronic screens.
- Avoid caffeine and naps late in the day.
- Have a lamp that’s easy to reach and turn on, a nightlight in the hallway or bathroom, and a flashlight nearby.
- Keep a telephone with emergency numbers by your bed.
- Talk to your doctor if you have problems sleeping.
Participating in activities you enjoy and getting exercise may help you feel better, stay social, maintain a healthy weight, and have regular sleep habits.
Try these tips for a healthy and active lifestyle:
- Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week. But be realistic about how much activity you can do at one time. Several short “mini-workouts” may be best.
- Aim for a mix of exercise types — endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. For example, you could do a mix of walking or dancing, lifting weights, standing on one foot, and stretching. Even everyday activities like household chores and gardening help you stay active.
- Your diet may need to change as dementia progresses to maintain a healthy weight. Talk with your doctor about the best diet for you, and choose nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein and dairy products. Avoid added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.
- Stay social by talking on the phone with family and friends, joining an online support group, or going for a walk in your neighborhood.
Many people may be able to help in different ways. These people might include family members, friends, professional caregivers, community organizations, and others with dementia. For example, you can:
- Ask friends or family to help with needs like cooking, paying bills, transportation, or shopping.
- If you live alone, find people you trust who can visit often.
- Consider letting trusted neighbors know of your diagnosis so they can help if needed.
- Use social service agencies, local nonprofits, and Area Agencies on Aging to connect with in-home help, transportation, meals, and other services.
Learn more about support and services.
The National Institute on Aging funds Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers across the U.S. that offer support groups and programs for people with dementia and their families.
Carry identification with you in case you get lost or need help. If you drive, talk with your doctor about changes in your driving and take seriously family and friends who express concerns. Make minor changes in the home to create a safer environment to prevent falls and injuries. Good balance, a habit of standing up slowly, and non-skid shoes can also help prevent falls.
- Simplify the amount and layout of furniture and remove small rugs.
- Have a sturdy handrail on stairways.
- Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed in or near the kitchen and in all bedrooms.
- Install an automatic shut-off switch on the stove and set the water heater temperature limit to 120 F to avoid burns.
- Consider safety devices, like fall monitors and emergency call buttons.
As much as you might want to put off difficult decisions about the future, now is the time to think about health and finances to make sure you have a say and are prepared. Start discussions early with your family members while everyone can still help make decisions together. There are several areas you will want to consider, including legal and financial matters, and options for in-home care, long-term care, and funeral and burial arrangements.
Learn more about planning for the future.
Research has expanded our understanding of potential new ways to help diagnose, treat, and prevent Alzheimer’s and related dementias. These advances are possible because of people like you who have participated in clinical trials and other studies. Participant benefits include receiving regular monitoring by medical professionals, access to support groups and resources, testing new treatments, and helping others with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia as well as future generations.
Learn more about volunteering for clinical trials and studies.
Explore the resources on this website and linked below to find more information from federal government agencies.
Explore free publications from NIA on Alzheimer’s and related dementias, caregiving, and healthy aging. Also available in Spanish.
Learn about living with dementia, care, and next steps.
Use this free public service by searching online or calling toll-free to get connected to services in your community.
Use the information on resources and support in this easy-to-read brochure.
Work through this mobility planning tool and create your own plan to stay independent, safe, and mobile in your community. Also available in Spanish.
Get free publications from NINDS on dementia. Also available in Spanish.
Questions? Contact the ADEAR Center
The Alzheimer’s & related Dementias Education & Referral (ADEAR) Center is a service of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. Call 800-438-4380 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to talk with an information specialist.
This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.