Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia-related illness is often described as a labor of love. Each year, over 16 million Americans engage in this labor of love, providing more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care for family and friends with dementia.
Frequently, family caregivers prioritize their loved ones’ needs ahead of their own. However, making time for self-care is not selfish; it’s essential to managing stress and avoiding caregiver burnout.
Untreated stress increases the risk of caregiver burnout and numerous other health issues, including high blood pressure, heart problems, anxiety, and depression. Proactive stress management provides short-term and long-term benefits for caregivers’ physical, mental, and emotional health, which is why it must be a priority. After all, if something happens to the caregiver, who will be able to care for their loved one? There are several steps caregivers can take to manage and reduce stress.
Be adaptable, positive, and aim for constructive solutions to changing situations
Attitude and mood have a tremendous influence. Controlling every stress-causing factor is impossible, but you can control how you react to those stressors. Focusing on finding solutions to the problem can help reduce the stress it’s causing.
This approach also benefits the care recipient. If the caregiver is calm and relaxed, it helps the individual living with Alzheimer’s to be as well. Conversely, an angry, agitated caregiver increases the chances that the person for whom they are caring will be angry and agitated, too.
Take things one day at a time
Resolving everything at once is both impossible and unrealistic. Prioritize and set practical goals. Don’t be afraid to get help, even if just means staying socially active by talking to family and friends. Be open with them about your feelings. Talking about your stress can help relieve it.
Take care of yourself
This means getting adequate rest, eating a proper diet, drinking plenty of water, and exercising. In addition, do something to clear and refresh your mind, whether it’s doing yoga, meditating, listening to music, walking, or taking a few deep breaths. Find something that works for you and do it regularly.
Connect with support
Every caregiver needs a strong support system. Relatives, friends, neighbors, professionals, and community-based support services are among the resources available to help. Don’t be reluctant, afraid, or embarrassed to ask for help.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) can provide additional information and support. Connect with a licensed social worker seven days a week through the AFA helpline by calling (866) 232-8484, web chatting at www.alzfdn.org, or texting (646) 586-5283.