Coping with the Challenges of Caring for Someone Living with Alzheimer’s
November is National Family Caregivers Month and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. This is the perfect time to explore ways people caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s can ensure they can maintain their own health and sense of well-being.
Anyone who has the responsibility of caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s can tell you that it comes with its own set of challenges. Many caregivers report feeling isolated, stressed, and living with a sense of grief as the person they love changes in so many ways. The Alzheimer’s Association 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report reveals that more than 15 million Americans are providing care for family members with dementia. Fifty-nine percent rated the emotional stress of caregiving as “high” or “very high.” According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, people caring for someone living with dementia are twice as likely to suffer from depression than those caring for someone without dementia.
All these challenges can lead to a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion, which can compromise one’s health for years. Researchers at Ohio State University found that caring for a family member with dementia can weaken the immune system even years after caregiving ends.
Here are some tips to help those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
Ensure your own needs are being met
When one gets caught up in a caregiving role, it’s easy to let other things slide – doctor and dental appointments, going to the gym, grocery shopping, or even getting together with friends. Being a good caregiver requires a lot of stamina – and the best way to maintain the energy required is to take care of yourself. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise, eating well and taking some time to spend with friends and family.
Ask for – and accept – help from others
Caregiving is hard work and no one expects you to do it alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends for some assistance. This could include everything from asking a neighbor to pick up a prescription or groceries to asking family members for financial assistance to pay for some outside care. Most people are glad to help and will feel good about the opportunity to contribute.
Join a support group
Connecting with others who are sharing your experiences can be very empowering. You may also discover how others are meeting the challenges you’re facing and discover solutions for managing your caregiving duties and making them a part of a productive, enjoyable life. You may also have some great insights to offer others.
Let others in your life know your situation
If you have children, explain to them what’s going on, that you may be less available for them, and that you still love them and want to know what’s going on in their lives. Let friends know you may be less available and are still eager for connection. Talk to your boss – you may be able to arrange a work schedule that accommodates your caregiving duties. Let coworkers know you appreciate their support during this time.
Get some assistance from an expert in dementia care
At LifeCare Advocates, we are experts in Alzheimer’s and related disorders. We can help you determine your loved one’s level of cognitive impairment, share our knowledge of current treatment options and make recommendations for creating or finding a place where your loved one can continue to thrive in the midst of their challenges.