Alzheimer’s: Tips to Relieve Care Burden
A Disease Without Boundaries
Few families have been left untouched by this insidious disease. Alzheimer’s, after all, is a disease that does not discriminate. It affects people of all backgrounds, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and education. What many families fail to focus on, however, is not just the person with the disease, but the caregiver.
Many caregivers experience such symptoms as denial, anger, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression, helplessness, sleeplessness, and irritability. In short, caring for a spouse or parent with Alzheimer’s often leads to exhaustion and emotional burnout.
What can caregivers do to reduce the burden? The Alzheimer’s Association and other experts offer the following recommendations:
Manage your stress level. High levels of stress, which are very common with primary caregivers, can cause physical problems. Use various relaxation techniques to ease the stress and consult your doctor.
Take care of yourself. Caregivers can’t ignore themselves in the process of helping their loved one. Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Take time out for shopping, entertainment and getting away.
Become an educated caregiver. Find out where there are support groups or contact your local Alzheimer’s association to learn more about how to cope.
Be realistic. Many of the behaviors that occur with Alzheimer’s disease are beyond your control and the control of your loved one. Yes, you can grieve, but you must also focus on the positive moments.
Do legal and financial planning. Consult an attorney and other specialists to discuss legal, financial and medical issues. These decisions need to be tied up sooner rather than later.
Give yourself a break. This is considered the most important step – and the one that you can least ignore. It may mean exploring home care services, adult day care options or respite services. Home care may include companion services, a home health aide who can assist in helping with the activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, toileting and feeding), homemaking services to help around the house, or skilled care to assist with medication and other medical services. It can be staffing for 24/7, live-in care, or hourly. Adult day care may offer music and art programs for the Alzheimer’s patient. Respite services can allow the caregiver to re-fresh her batteries by going away for the day or taking a much-needed weekend break.
Don’t be a martyr. If at all possible, don’t do it alone. You can’t live like this for too long. Seek the support of family, friends and community resources.
Alzheimer’s disease destroys lives – and that can include the life of the caregiver as well. The adult children for one client of Home Care Partners, who called us about sending them care staff to help their mother care for their father, said they made the call after reaching the conclusion “we have already lost dad; we can’t lose mom, too.” With a dedicated person taking some of the responsibility off her shoulders, their mother was able to leave the house for several hours every day. She could take long weekends to visit her children and grandchildren. It allowed her to slowly get back to being herself again.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164