When it comes to Alzheimer’s, the first question on many people’s minds is, “What if it happens to me?” From preventative measures to potential treatments, the focus is often on avoiding the disease or coping when it strikes. But when a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the ripples spread out to touch many people in their lives. So, for Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, let’s acknowledge the struggles faced by Alzheimer’s caregivers.
Alzheimer’s is a specific type of dementia. As a progressive disease, the symptoms worsen with time. Caregivers face a spectrum of challenges, from minor memory loss to the inability to carry on a conversation. The caregiver’s role only increases as the disease progresses.
Alzheimer’s takes a terrible toll on the memory and personality of those it afflicts. The anguish of family caregivers is often an inevitable side effect. But by making sure to care for yourself as well as your loved one, balance and fulfillment are within reach.
Stress And Guilt Are Common Among Alzheimer’s Caregivers
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be physically and emotionally draining. So much so, that these patients are often called “the invisible second patients.” These caregiving relationships are also very personal. In fact, 75 percent of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s are family members.
Depending on the stage of the disease, caregiving responsibilities can become an unpaid full-time job. Though Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia destroy nerve connections in the brain, it is not fatal. As a result, caring for a person with Alzheimer’s can last for years.
A 2015 survey showed 15.7 million caregivers look after a family member with a form of dementia. That number has almost certainly increased with America’s aging population. Caregiver stress is a common problem. Caregivers often suffer from guilt, or the nagging feeling that they are not doing enough to help the person in their care. If left unchecked, caregiver stress can quickly become burnout.
Burnout is dangerous both for the caregiver and the person they care for. Common symptoms of burnout include exhaustion, frequent illnesses, lack of concentration, and depression. These issues make it more difficult to give adequate care, but their effect on caregivers’ quality of life is no less important.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can lead to many challenges. It can also become a source of fulfillment. Between 55 and 90 percent of caregivers experienced feelings of spiritual or personal growth, increased faith, and closeness with the family member they care for. Inevitably there will be both sorrow and joy in the act of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s. The key is to find balance and care for yourself in the process.
How Caregivers Can Care for Themselves
Caregivers must work to maintain both their physical and mental health. Simple tasks, such as eating well and getting enough sleep, become harder when caring for a person with intensive needs. As well as the bare necessities, be sure to make time for yourself apart from the duties of caregiving. Set aside time for hobbies or leisure to recharge.
Isolation is a common concern for those giving intensive care. It can be difficult to find the time and energy to socialize. But connecting with friends and other family members can be an important source of support. Many areas often have support groups for caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s. This can be a great way to meet other people in similar situations, and gain strength from solidarity.
Changing your outlook is one of the most meaningful ways to impact your caregiving experience. Though the challenges are intense, focusing on acceptance can provide a way through. Sentiments like “focus on the positives” may seem trite, but they can make a big difference in perception and mood. Acknowledge the good moments as well as the bad. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The worldwide number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to double every 20 years. This means even more family members will need their loved one’s care. For those who feel they might need assistance in looking after their loved one with Alzheimer’s, Generations Home Care offers a variety of services to help you in difficult times.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.