When you are the caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease you are facing physical, emotional and financial challenges. Knowing that millions of people love and care for someone with dementia does not make your experience any less stressful. You will have to problem solve and be resilient. Everyone is focused on the patient but you must not overlook your own emotional and physical health.
As you watch your loved one lose cognitive and physical abilities it is easy to feel burdened. In fact many caregivers suffer significant health problems such as depression, anxiety and exhaustion. Often caregivers feel sad and lonely as well. Therefore support for the caregiver is a necessity. Here are some suggestions for ways the caregiver can plan for the future and protect their own well-being.
Understand the Alzheimer’s and Plan Ahead
It may be scary but it is important to learn about Alzheimer’s and how it will progress over time. This will help you prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. Knowing that your loved one will ultimately require 24-hour care may seem depressing but it is important to start preparing for future challenges now and not wait until the situation is critical. You want to start putting plans in place and may value the advice from the loved one with Alzheimer’s while they still have the cognitive ability. In addition you will want to make legal and financial arrangements for the long-term care option you select.
Seek and Accept Help
Even if it isn’t a burden yet, daily caregiving will become a burden as the disease progresses. If friends or family members offer to help with grocery shopping and cleaning accept. If someone offers to spend time with the patient so you can get out for awhile take them up on it. You will be a better caregiver if you have some time away. If friends and family are not able or willing to help you then reach out to volunteer organizations. Don’t feel guilty spending time on your own hobbies and other activities that you enjoy. You need and deserve to have life beyond being a caregiver.
Join a Support Group
Consider looking for an Alzheimer’s support group. Many caregivers have found it valuable to know they are not alone. It is also possible to learn from the experiences of others. Someone who is facing the same challenges can provide you a perspective that is helpful. This is also a great way to reduce the likelihood that you will be a caregiver who feels lonely on this journey.
To avoid anxiety and depression look for ways to manage the stress of being a caregiver. Consider meditation or yoga to allow your body the opportunity to relax. You may also find your energy levels elevated after completing meditation or yoga. Regular exercise can also be beneficial beyond keeping you physically fit. Endorphins are released which will give you a sense of well-being. You do not need to exercise for a long period at one time. Even 10 minutes of exercise a few times throughout the day can provide significant benefits.
Be Aware of Symptoms
In addition to focusing on Alzheimer’s symptoms you should also be aware of caregiver burnout symptoms. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Social withdrawal from friends
- Inability to experience pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Anger at the Alzheimer’s patient
- Concern about how you will handle the future
- Exhaustion to the point that you can barely complete daily activities
- Repeated illness indicating lower immunity
- Reliance on alcohol
- Excessive irritability
If you fear you are suffering from caregiver burnout seek professional help.
For more information about Alzheimer’s disease and how to support the patient and the caregiver contact us.