Having a Loved One With Alzheimer’s Disease is Stressful: 4 Tips to Help You Cope
In honor of World Alzheimer’s Month in September, we thought it would be fitting to discuss why it is so stressful to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s in end of life care and how you can cope in Alameda County and elsewhere. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a very long, emotional and stressful journey, but it’s important to remember you’re never alone. More than 16 million people in this country care for someone with dementia, says Help Guide. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, which means your support as a family member or friend makes all the difference in the world to your loved one’s overall quality of life.
But no one ever said caregiving was easy. Yes, it can be extremely rewarding as you learn to reconnect and bond with your parent or other family member. But this job can quickly consume your life, to the exclusion of your own family, job, and social life. It can be easy to lose yourself in the process, especially as your loved one continues to decline cognitively and physically. You may have feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed, and you may start to neglect your own well-being.
The caregiving burden can also have physical effects, increasing the risk of health problems such as low energy and headaches, as well as emotional effects such as a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and burnout. To combat this risk, it’s important to seek help and support along the way. Don’t be afraid to reach out. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
Tips to Cope
In order to provide the best care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s, you have to take care of yourself. If you let yourself get overburdened, the quality of care will suffer. Here are some tips for coping:
1. Learn About Community Resources
There are many resources in the community you can take advantage of, but many people don’t know how to find them, don’t think they’d qualify, or aren’t aware they are there. Hire in-home caregivers skilled in memory care, enroll your loved one in an adult day program, or sign up for meal delivery services, advises the Alzheimer’s Association. Any little bit of assistance helps, but you have to ask for it.
2. Take Care of Yourself
Don’t ignore yourself, either. Be aware of the signs of stress and ask your doctor for help before your own physical and mental health starts to decline. Learn about the support groups in your area (Pathways offers a bunch!). If the stress of caregiving is starting to affect your health and you are starting to neglect your own needs, family, and job, seek out professional help in the form of therapy or counseling. Employ relaxation techniques to relieve stress, such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation. Eat well and make time for your own family and friends. Get plenty of exercise every day. Go for a walk, call a friend for coffee, or do some gardening. Sign up for in-home respite care so you can take a break on a regular basis.
Doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re moving and thinking about yourself once in a while.
3. Be an Educated Caregiver
Chances are, you’re not a professional caregiver, nurse, or social worker. You may find yourself suddenly thrust into this role and are expected to know the medical terminology, stages of Alzheimer’s, and the standards of care. This can be overwhelming if you come from a place not familiar with providing dementia care. And let’s face it, many of us don’t know what we’re doing when we take on this role! But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn. Talk to your loved one’s in-home caregivers, ask for tips, observe what they do, talk to their doctor, go online for research and seek out community programs that can educate you on the disease as well as how to provide care.
4. Make Financial and Legal Plans
It can be stressful not knowing what the future holds. But when you have a solid plan in place, this can give you peace of mind knowing that at least the basics are covered. It’s best to sit down with your loved one right after diagnosis so they can participate in the plan and give their input. These plans can provide comfort not only to them but also to the entire family. Seek out help from an attorney that specializes in elder law or estate planning. You will also want to meet with a financial advisor skilled in long-term care planning.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
Here at Pathways Home Health and Hospice, we have many people in our hospice program who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. We know how to care for them, to be sure, but we can also give family members some tips for coping with the stress that comes along with it. To learn more, contact us at 888-978-1306.