Cultivating a Care Partnership: How to Best Collaborate With Your Home Health Aide

Assisting Families Facing Alzheimer’s

The following article was written by Heather Saposnick of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) for the benefit of SelectCare’s community.  To learn more about the AFA and the incredible work they perform to assist families facing Alzheimer’s, visit their website at

As a loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease progresses and his ability to care for himself begin to show signs of decline, it may be time to consider adding a layer of support to the care routine.  Hiring a home health aide can help ensure your loved one gets the care he needs to remain at home.

Building a relationship among family, aide, and loved one is not always a seamless process and can take time. It is important that family members help the aide get to know your loved one, his likes and dislikes, and equally important that the family members get to know the aide as an individual.  Investing effort in building such a relationship can help ensure a successful outcome.

A helping dialogue should begin the moment the aide enters the home.  Discuss who makes up the care team and the roles of the participating individuals, including the family members, aide, and the individual living with dementia.  This is the foundation of the care partnership and helps foster open communication.  Keep in mind that the goal is to collaborate on cultivating an environment that will foster the best possible quality of life for your loved one.

Here are some tips on developing a care partnership:

Clarify the Purpose:  Set a time to discuss the roles and expectations of one another.  Know, up front, the tasks the aide can perform and what is not permitted.  It is important to be open and honest about strengths and limitations, in order to best assist in care.

Know the Person:  In building the relationship, it is helpful to share your loved one’s likes and dislikes, as well as other preferences, with regard to bathing (e.g., shower or bath, morning or evening) eating (e.g., favorite foods, mealtime routines), and grooming. In addition, work with the aide to understand what makes your loved one who he is—now and before his illness.  For example, share information about his leisure interests, hobbies and values.  This can help to create a stronger connection between the aide and your loved one.  As the disease progresses, understand that a person’s likes and dislikes may also change, and these changes should be communicated with the care team.

Communicate:  It is important to be able to communicate any issues or needs of your loved one and also to receive feedback from the aide.  Family members may not always be present when an aide is assisting, so make sure the lines of communication remain open, and regularly schedule specific times to speak.  Consider creating a communication book, or journal, that can help ensure everyone is on the same page.  Simply write a brief synopsis of how your loved one is doing, and include any changes in status, such as being sick, or changes in medication, diet and sleep patterns.  This information will help all care partners customize the day’s care plan.

Be open and flexible:  Don’t get stuck in a routine! Understand that the individual with dementia may not be as able to adapt to changes as the family and aide can be, so be willing to explore new techniques.  Always keep your loved one’s well being at the forefront of decision-making and work together to ensure he is living a meaningful life.

As you continue to cultivate the care partnership, don’t hesitate to reach out for additional information, tips and support.  The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s (AFA)  national toll-free helpline—866-232-8484—is staffed by licensed social workers, who can answer questions, offer additional strategies and referrals to local resources.  AFA’s national toll-free helpline is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT Monday-Friday and Saturdays, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Heather Saposnick is a licensed social worker at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA).  She has 10 years’ experience working in the geriatric field, including in nursing homes. Heather’s passion is assisting individuals and families living with dementia.