Managing Caregiver Stress
By Caryn Sagal
Caregivers for individuals with dementia may become so overwhelmed, that they neglect their own physical, mental and emotional well-being. If they’re not good to themselves, ultimately they can’t be good to those they are helping. Below are 10 ways to be a healthier caregiver.
1. Understand what’s going on as early as possible
Alzheimer’s symptoms may appear gradually. Although it can be easy to explain away changing or unusual behavior when a loved one seems physically healthy, you should consult a doctor when you see changes in memory, mood or behavior. Don’t delay because some symptoms are treatable.
2. Know what community resources are available
Your local Alzheimer’s Association office can help you find care resources in your community. Adult day programs, in-home assistance and meal delivery are just some of the services that can help.
3. Become an educated caregiver
As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills may be necessary. The Alzheimer’s Association offers programs to help you better understand and cope with the behaviors and personality changes that often accompany Alzheimer’s.
4. Get help
Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted. Seek the support of family, friends and community resources. The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline, online message boards and local support groups are good sources of comfort and reassurance. If stress becomes overwhelming, seek professional help.
5. Take care of yourself
Eat right, exercise and get plenty of rest.
6. Manage your level of stress
Stress can cause physical problems (blurred vision, stomach irritation, high blood pressure) and changes in behavior (irritability, lack of concentration, change in appetite). Find ways to relax and talk to your doctor.
7. Accept changes as they occur
People with Alzheimer’s change and so do their needs. They may require care beyond what you can provide on your own. Becoming aware of community resources – from home care services to residential care – should make the transition easier.
8. Make legal and financial plans
Consult a professional to discuss legal and financial issues including advance directives, wills, estate planning, housing issues and long- term care planning. Involve the person with Alzheimer’s and family members whenever possible.
9. Give yourself credit, not guilt
Know that the care you provide does make a difference and you are doing the best you can. Don’t feel guilty because you can’t do more. You can’t promise how care will be delivered, but you ensure that the person with Alzheimer’s is well cared for and safe.
10. Visit your doctor regularly
Take time to get regular checkups, and hear what your body is telling you. Ignoring symptoms can cause your own physical and mental health to decline.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s research, care and support. Its mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Its vision is a world without Alzheimer’s.