7 Tips for Alzheimer's Caregivers
- IntroductionYour role as an Alzheimer’s caregiver may be the hardest job you’ve ever had. What you do matters and makes a huge difference in your loved one’s life, but seeing your loved one deteriorate can take a heavy toll on your emotional and physical health. Don’t neglect your own needs during this challenging time. Compared to other adults, caregivers are more prone to serious medical issues in the service to an Alzheimer’s patient. Here are seven tips to help you as an Alzheimer’s caregiver.
- 1. Educate YourselfAs a caregiver, you may need to do things you have never done before. Educate yourself on what to expect during the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease and prepare yourself for what’s to come. Caregiver-training programs can help you learn skills to manage challenging behaviors, communicate with your loved one, and ensure your loved one’s safety through the course of the disease. A good place to start is the Alzheimer’s Association.
- 2. Take Time for YourselfCaring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be all-consuming, emotionally and physically. It’s easy to neglect your own needs, but one of the most important things you can do is to take care of yourself. It's not selfish—it's practical! If you fail to care for yourself properly, both you and the patient suffer. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and carve out time each day to do something you enjoy.
- 3. Allow Others to HelpAsk for help and accept assistance when it is offered. Your family and friends want to help, so let them make a meal or visit with your loved one from time-to-time. It's easy to experience caregiver burnout. Taking time off from caregiving (whether for a few hours or several days) allows you to remain focused and energized during challenging days. Build your own support network. Home healthcare services and adult day care services are also available for help. They can provide a respite so you can take time for yourself. Go to www.eldercare.gov to find Alzheimer’s care providers in your area.
- 4. Seek SupportBeing a caregiver can be lonely, isolating and depressing. Find someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, spiritual leader, or counselor to talk to about your feelings and concerns. Caregiver support groups are also available (online or in person) and are a great way to meet other caregivers, share ideas, and get support. Ask your loved one’s doctor to recommend a caregiver support group, or contact your local Alzheimer’s organization. If you are really struggling, seek prompt care from a medical professional.
- 5. Take Advantage of Available ResourcesTap into resources that offer financial and caregiving assistance. General support can be found at the National Institute of Aging, Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, and Family Caregiver Alliance. You can seek financial help through Medicare, Medicaid, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Federal and state benefit programs may provide assistance with prescription drugs, household expenses, meal programs, and legal services.
- 6. Know the Signs of Caregiver BurnoutThe challenges you face as a caregiver are many. There are so many, in fact, that it is easy to become physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Signs of caregiver burnout include excessive stress, irritability, anger, depression, anxiety, guilt, social withdrawal, and drug and alcohol abuse. Left untreated, you may become a danger to yourself and your loved one. Talk to your doctor if you have warning signs of caregiver burnout.
- 7. LaughWhile Alzheimer’s disease is heartbreaking, sometimes adding a little laughter can alleviate the stress of a difficult situation. Allow yourself to laugh at the crazy situations you find yourself in with your loved one. Also, surround yourself with laughter as much as possible. It can take your mind off your concerns and lighten your mood. This is where joining a caregiver’s group may help.
- Be an Effective CaregiverThe most important thing you can do as an Alzheimer’s caregiver is to take care of yourself. It’s not being selfish—to be an effective caregiver, you need to be a healthy caregiver. Don’t neglect your own needs and try not to feel guilty about taking time out for you. Let people help and seek support from friends and community. They may not be as experienced, as organized, or as efficient as you, but their help can be a lifesaver. If you are showing signs of depression or caregiver burnout, seek immediate medical care. This is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of your dedication to yourself and to your loved one.
7 Tips for Alzheimer's Caregivers