8 Tips for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers
Advocacy Easing the emotional, physical and financial burdens of a dementia caregiver benefits not only the caregiver, but the person with the disease and the entire family.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia is relentless, exhausting work. It’s a job that takes you away from sleep, from work, from friends and family, and from the simple things in life that provide joy.
Research by Dr. Mary Mittleman, Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine, demonstrates that good care does make a difference. For instance, caregivers who get help experience less depression and distress. And, just as significantly, Dr. Mittleman’s research also shows that caregivers who get counseling are able to keep their family member home and out of a nursing home longer than those who don’t get services.
Following some simple tips can make all the difference:
1. Seek information
There are doctors, professional organizations and websites that can provide you with important information along your caregiving journey. The more you know about the disease and what to expect, the more you will be able to plan and make decisions for your loved one and for you.
2. Don’t tackle caregiving alone
Even if you’re an only child, there are resources that can provide counsel and services to help you along the way. Talk to knowledgeable professionals who can point you in the direction of important local resources.
3. Join a local support group
Knowing you’re not the only one affected and hearing how others have dealt with being an Alzheimer’s caregiver can give you confidence and a fresh perspective.
4. Ask for help
Too often the burden of care disproportionately falls on one person. Even if you’re the primary caregiver, you may have family or friends who can help. Consider asking them to look after your relative while you go to a movie or grab a bite to eat. The larger your circle of care is, the easier it is for you to maintain your stamina and provide the best care.
5. Accept help when it’s offered
Don’t feel guilty about accepting a helping hand and taking time for yourself. You’ll be better able to care if you’re refreshed.
6. Be prepared
Gather all of the important paperwork associated with legal and financial matters. Durable powers of attorney, health care proxies and living wills should be prepared early when the person is still able to participate. These conversations may seem difficult to have at first, but will save you and your family a lot of anguish as time progresses. It could also save you the expensive alternative of a guardianship proceeding.
7. Understand your emotions
It is natural for caregivers to feel a wide range of emotions including love, anger, frustration, profound sadness, intense loss and guilt. These feelings are normal. Communicating with a professional or a friend about how you feel will help ease your burden.
8. Take care of your own health
Don’t ignore your medical issues or skip your own doctor appointments. Also, keep tabs on your emotional well-being. It is not uncommon for caregivers to experience depression, fatigue, stomach problems or trouble sleeping. And always remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can in a difficult situation.