Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease can be easily overwhelming, and the caregiving experience can itself be confusing. Family caregivers who are starting the journey of care for someone with dementia can be puzzled about what information needs to be known. The following Seven Principles of Caregiving can help make sense of the essentials.


Dignity of the person is the first principle to maintain. This means to allow the person with dementia to maintain as much independence that is realistic for their abilities including maintaining dignity through doing one’s own personal care when able; through choice of activities; and through choice of relationships that are satisfying.

Safety of the person is the second principle. This means ensuring that the caregiver monitors to protect the person from self-harm or from the actions of others who may not have the person’s best interests at heart. In addition, providing reasonable safety includes making changes in the home environment to reduce the potential for injury.

Quality of care: When services are arranged, it is essential that the care providers are knowledgeable about dementia care. Care must be delivered in a timely fashion to address immediate needs. Care must also be consistently provided to ensure appropriateness for maintaining optimal health of the person with dementia.

Planning for comprehensive care: The family caregiver needs to obtain an assessment of the total needs of the person needing care. Planning includes obtaining understanding about advance directives, such as implementing a health care proxy instrument. Comprehensive planning requires the caregiver to take an inventory of resources that include informal and formal supports, personal financial capacity, and determination of eligibility for community programs.

Balance by and for the caregiver is important. Balancing needs and resources requires consideration of balancing of the available time in the day’s routine to address both the person and caregiver needs. Developing a balance of servicing between the primary caregiver and other family members is important to sharing the responsibilities. Further, acceptance of a balance to blend family help and outside community supports is needed to sustain the primary caregiver’s ability to cope.

Service that continues to remain helpful requires establishing realistic goals to meet the basic needs of the person with dementia. It also requires setting realistic goals for the caregiver’s capacity as a human being to do what is being asked of them; and, it requires the family to be realistic about what the local community has to offer for services to assist in the care at home.

Relationship between the caregiver and the person with dementia should be preserved. The ultimate purpose of the caregiving experience is to sustain and enhance the relationship between the caregiver and the person. While the person with progressive dementia will increasingly be unable to express appreciation for the care received, there can still be moments in advanced stages for such expression to occur. The caregiver’s willingness comes through as compassionate care in recognition and in honor of the relationship. When this happens, the caregiving relationship allows both people to give loving kindness to each other.