Though you may feel isolated, you’re not alone. Exactly how not alone are you? There are currently 16.1 million Alzheimer’s caregivers in the United States. As Baby Boomers age, more and more young Americans and millennials will take on this role. And these young caregivers face challenges that their older counterparts may not, like being a member of the so-called “Sandwich Generation” — those caring for a parent and a child at the same time. In fact, most family caregivers are in the prime of their careers, a time when their families and jobs need them the most.
No time like the present
Having to witness the progressive decline of a vibrant, strong parent — someone who has always been there and cared for you — is heart wrenching. Like most people in your situation, you probably feel overwhelmed by the decisions you have to make for your loved one. Will you need to find an adult day-care, a nursing home or even hospice when the time comes? How have other family caregivers in similar situations managed? How do you plan for what’s to come? How will it impact your life? In many cases, you may not even know what questions to ask.
Eventually your loved one will not be able to make decisions for themselves, so start planning for your future as an Alzheimer’s caregiver today. Talk to them about their wishes for their future. Alzheimer’s care can be expensive. Do you know if your loved one or family has financial resources available? Find out. Will you be the sole caregiver? Do you have family or friends that can help? This might be a good time to have that family meeting — you know, the one you have been putting off. Be sure to get all those important documents in place, such as advance directives, living wills, powers of attorney, etc., because doing so may be challenging as your loved one’s symptoms progress.
Do you dread the idea of juggling work, family and caregiving? It isn’t easy, but these suggestions that other working family caregivers find useful may help you, too.
Talk with your supervisor and co-workers. You may find that they are caring for a loved one too. Learn from each other. Start a support group or employee resource group for you and your caregiving co-workers. Bring the best of yourself to work. Do your best to focus on your job. Get organized at home and at work. Organization helps you accomplish more and reduces stress.
Let’s face it, caregiving is stressful. You may be at higher risk for depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses. Taking care of yourself isn’t just for you; it’s important so you can be as good a caregiver tomorrow as you are today.
We use technology like never before, and that’s true for caregiving. There’s a ton of new tech designed to make caregiving easier: smartphone apps, automated medication dispensers. They’re all out there. Use them.
Though it may feel like you need super powers to be an Alzheimer’s caregiver, there are ways to manage it all. Be kind to yourself. It’s OK to need help. Luckily, there are many wonderful resources to help you. Start your search for help at CaregiverAction.org.
John Schall, CEO, Caregiver Action Network, [email protected]