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Why an Action Plan Can Help You Manage Your Loved One’s Dementia Care

Breaking down goals into small, manageable steps can help you handle the challenges you may face as a caregiver


Branka Primetica is the BRI Care Consultation™ Program Manager at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging

If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, you probably face difficult situations that leave you stressed or overwhelmed. While it’s challenging to manage anyone’s care, there are practical steps you can take to help plan for your loved one’s care and ease the burdens you face.

Action planning is a process of breaking down goals into small, manageable steps. Using this approach can help you handle the problems you may be facing. As caregivers, knowing when and how to empower yourself by identifying your needs and then seeking help through action planning can ultimately lead to lower levels of strain, burden and depression (Bass, D.M., Clark, P.A., Looman, W.J., McCarthy, C.A., & Eckert, S. (2003). “The Cleveland Alzheimer’s Managed Care Demonstration: Outcomes after 12 months of implementation.”The Gerontologist, 43(1), 73-85).

So, what are the keys to developing effective action steps? Just follow the process below. 

What are Action Steps and how do they help create a larger Action Plan to better manage dementia care?

Action Steps are small, discrete tasks that gradually work to help you address unmet needs. Unlike goals, Action Steps are specific and straightforward, which can help you manage everything that needs to be done before it gets too overwhelming. These are not vague outlines. Action Steps are realistic and practical. They help you:

1. Address your unmet needs.

2. Aim for target dates when each Action Step can be accomplished.

3. Identify family members and friends who can help accomplish each Action Step.

Once created, Action Steps feed into the larger Action Plan, which continuously evolves as the care situation changes. As your existing Action Steps are accomplished, you may want to add new ones as new needs arise. Your overall goals may also change over time, leading to the creation of new Action Steps to achieve them.

By breaking down goals into simple steps, you can reduce stress, save time and delegate tasks to others who can help. It opens the door for other family members, friends and professionals to help with the care of a loved one. This added help can both increase your support, and ultimately lead to better care for your loved one with dementia. 

What does an Action Plan look like?

Effective Action Steps and overall Action Plans can empower you and your loved one to: 

1. Access services that meet your mental and physical health needs.

2. Find resources to educate yourselves on health and care-related information.

3. Involve other family and friends in helping with various tasks.

4. Accept coaching and support from others throughout your caregiving journey.

To achieve this, focus on your individual strengths, recognize others’ desires to help, consider your loved one’s preferences and engage them in the process. 

By writing down Action Steps and sharing them with others, there’s a greater likelihood of accomplishing them. Below is a snapshot of an Action Plan to review and generate some of your own ideas. Start by thinking of an area where you need help. What is your first Action Step? 

 Action Step

Who will do it?

By When?

Contact Sunshine Companion Program and ask about eligibility/enrollment for Tom to receive Companion visits two afternoons each week.

Mary (Wife)

November 15th

Visit Tom two evenings each week to provide Mary respite so that she can attend exercise program with friends.

Sally (Daughter)

January 30th

Install safety features throughout the home (nightlights, door alarm, secure rugs) to prevent Tom from falling and wandering at night.  

Bob (Son)

December 15th

Drive Tom to and from physical therapy appointments two times per week – Tuesday and Thursday mornings. 

Susan (Sister)

December 31st


Is there anyone that can help with creating an Action Plan?

There are local as well as a national programs that can provide coaching to families on ways to ask for help and guidance in effectively managing dementia care and decision-making using the Action Planning process. To explore the coaching services offered at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, visit BRI Care ConsultationTM.

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