November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2009 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and as many as 10 million family caregivers. Caregivers tend to experience high levels of stress and anxiety, and it is important to recognize the signs of such stress. Visit us at eldercareathome.org if you have any questions, or need help for an aging loved one in the area.
Coping with Caregiver Stress: Alzheimer caregivers report that they frequently experience high levels of stress. Too much stress can be damaging to both a caregiver and the person with Alzheimer’s.
If you experience some of these signs of stress on a regular basis, consult your doctor. Ignoring them can cause your physical and mental health to decline.
Symptoms of caregiver stress
Lack of concentration
Be a healthy caregiver. Taking care of yourself is one of the most important ways to be a healthy caregiver.
Know what resources are available. Adult day care, in-home assistance, visiting nurses and Meals-on-Wheels are just some of the services that can help you.
Become an educated caregiver. As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills are necessary. Find information on alz.org or contact your local Alzheimer’s Association.
Get help. You are not failing as a caregiver by asking others for assistance. Seek the support of family, friends and community resources. Alzheimer’s Association support group meetings are a good source of comfort and reassurance. Or you can join our online community.
Take care of yourself. Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Make time for shopping, lunch with friends or even a golf outing. Take advantage of community services such as adult day care or in-home companion services to care for your loved one while you take a break.
Manage your stress level. Stress can cause physical problems and changes in behavior. If you experience symptoms of caregiver stress, use relaxation techniques that work for you, and consult your doctor.
Accept changes as they occur. People with Alzheimer’s change and so do their needs. They often require care beyond what you can provide on your own. Look into care services such as in-home caregiver services and residential care.
Do legal and financial planning. Consult an attorney to discuss legal, financial and care issues. If possible and appropriate, involve the person with Alzheimer’s and other family members.
Be realistic. Many of the behaviors that occur are beyond your control and the control of the person with Alzheimer’s. Grieve your losses, but also focus on the positive moments.
Give yourself credit, not guilt. You are doing the best you can. Don’t feel guilty because you can’t do more. Your loved one needs you, and you are there – that should make you feel proud.