Caregivers Need an Arsenal of Tools for Loved Ones With Dementia

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by Ray Burow |

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A carpenter wouldn’t show up to work without a belt full of essential tools specific to carpentry. Caring for a loved one at home requires an arsenal of tools specific to the jobs that caregiving entails. Matching the right tool to a job makes a task easier for the caregiver and, through the care process, makes your loved one more comfortable.

Some of the tools you’ll need are specific to the person for whom care is provided. However, certain items come in very handy if caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Gather and keep the following for in-home care.

You can’t have too many

Remember when the kids were little? There were a few things we couldn’t live without and could never have too many of. For instance, running out of diapers or the accompanying wipes is the kiss of death for any mother. The items have changed, but the sentiment is the same. When caring for a loved one at home, it is impossible to have too many of the right tools.

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The more the merrier. Useful for more than bathing, washcloths are great for when a paper towel, napkin, or even a flushable wipe won’t do. You can throw them in the wash.

I suggest purchasing less expensive washcloths for caregiving duties. Big box stores, like Walmart and Target, sell inexpensive brands in a pack of 10 or more tied together with a pretty ribbon.

The less expensive washcloths aren’t particularly luxurious, but you won’t use them for spa treatments or even for showers and baths, though you could. They’re useful for numerous caregiving duties, and if one is used for an indelicate task, you could even choose to toss it. Otherwise, keep it eco-friendly and toss in a load of laundry. By the way, I’ve found it useful to use only white, bleachable washcloths, for obvious reasons.


Like washcloths, towels purchased in bulk are handy for caregivers, have multiple uses, and are great for placing across a lap to catch lunch, dinner, or breakfast spills. Your loved one is dressed and ready for a doctor’s appointment or for church but breakfast or lunch is still on the menu. Dressing requires a lot of energy for an older person. Help them to avoid redressing because of stains. Inexpensive towels with a medium thread count will work fine as a spill and stain barrier.

A warm towel is magnificent following a shower or bath. Throw one in the dryer for a few minutes prior to helping your loved one from a bath or shower. Drape it around them for comfort.

Rugs can pose a hazard for an elder person and caregivers often remove them from the bathroom. On bath day, use a towel to wipe up water from the floor. A towel won’t stay in place, but a sturdy one is useful when assisting your loved one from the shower. Help them to step onto the towel to avoid slipping on a tile floor. Remove the towel once you’ve gotten them dry from top to bottom and place pool or street shoes on their feet to avoid slipping. Again, white, bleachable towels are the best choice. Throw in the washer along with the washcloths.

Reusable cloth pads

Disposable pads are useful, but reusable cloth pads are better. Also known as incontinence pads, the cloth type is more absorbent and can be thrown in the wash. They don’t shift or bunch up like disposable pads, which makes them more comfortable. They’re a little pricey, but worth it, especially considering the price of purchasing disposable pads over and over again. Keep a package of disposables for days you fall behind on laundry or for an added measure of protection beneath the cloth pad at night.

Hand sanitizer

Old-fashioned soap and water is better, and hand sanitizer is helpful on the go, but it’s useful at home, too. Getting up from a chair to walk to the bathroom and wash hands is no big deal for a strong, healthy person. However, a person with dementia might balk at moving from their spot, and washing hands becomes a battle. Hand sanitizer to the rescue.


It is much easier to care for someone with mobility. A mobile person continues with normal tasks, like going to the bathroom on their own or climbing into bed with minimal assistance, or perhaps without it. Independence slips away from a person with dementia, but using a walker provides a measure of autonomy. Choose one that is adjustable to the person’s height.

There are other helpful caregiving tools; for instance, did you know renting is possible? We’ll explore more possibilities in a future column.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


Richard Singer avatar

Richard Singer

I just found out through experience of a critical group of items that are not mentioned: strong, easy door locks not hackable from the inside. I got nailed by the Adult Protection Unit of the state because my wife was sneaking out for walks and getting lost. The Sheriff Deputy brought her back twice and reported us, Otherwise, my patient is well cared for and the report will be cleared after an interview and lock work. The patient, however, hates this locking. She feels like a prisoner. You have to deal with this. She's human and knows what's going on regarding her daily freedom. Explaining is necessary, but it's forgotten. Even the most conscientious of us can't watch the patients every minute, 7/24. We're going to combination locks with well-sequestered combination reminders. If I have to explain over and over, so be it, it beats shoving her into a locked nursing home.

Ray Burow avatar

Ray Burow

Hello Richard,

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am so sorry for your trouble with the Adult Protection Unit. I understand why the organization exists, but when you're doing your best to care for your loved one, a negative report like the one you're enduring is difficult to take. I can hear the pain and great concern you have for your wife in the posted comment. Familial caregiving is difficult, and I commend you for your faithful efforts.
Regarding necessary tools for caregiving: As you've pointed out, many more essential items are helpful when caring for someone at home. This article is the first of a two-part series. Thank you for bringing up the "locks" for discussion. The next article will also draw attention to a simple door alarm. Do you happen to have one? I don't mean an extravagant system that costs a lot of money to install, but an alarm that is attached on the door and above, and is activated with the flip of a switch on the mechanism. When the door opens, and breaks the connection the alarm sounds. This would alert you that the door is opened before your wife is able to leave the house, even without the extra lock. The mechanism is battery operated, so you'd have to keep up with changing the batteries. Maybe you could try using the locks and the alarm at night, (to alert you when asleep) and only the alarms during the day. She wouldn't be able to leave the house without the alarm sounding and perhaps she'd feel less like a prisoner.

I wish you and your wife all the best as you continue to keep her safe.

Ray Burow


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