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Taking Care of the Caregiver
Taking Care of the Caregiver
More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. During the month of November – designated as National Caregivers Month – the Alzheimer’s Association is hoping to increase awareness of the unique challenges facing these caregivers and the support and services available to them.
Caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s can take a severe emotional, physical and financial toll. To illustrate, recent studies show:
- Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers rated their emotional stress as high or very high. Additionally, about 40 percent suffer from depression.
- Due to the physical and emotional impact of caregiving, Alzheimer’s caregivers had $10.2 billion in health care costs of their own in 2015.
- More than 50 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers experience work-related issues upon the start of their caregiving, such as going in late or leaving early; and 15 percent had to take a leave of absence.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
It’s important for caregivers, and family and friends closest to them, to be aware of the common signs of caregiver stress:
- Denial about the disease and its effect on the person who has been diagnosed.
- Anger at the person with Alzheimer’s or frustration that he or she can’t do things they used to be able to do.
- Social withdrawal from friends and regular activities.
- Anxiety about the future.
- Depression that that doesn’t lift and affect ability to cope.
- Exhaustion that makes it nearly impossible to complete necessary daily tasks.
- Irritability that leads to moodiness and triggers negative responses and actions.
- Lack of concentration that makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks.Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress
Reducing and managing stress is essential and benefits both the caregiver and the person under their care. A few tips:
- Become an educated caregiver. Understanding the disease, its progression and accompanying behavioral and physical changes can help you become a better caregiver.
- Take care of yourself. Try to eat well, exercise and get plenty of rest. Making sure that you are healthy can help you be a better caregiver.
- Build a support network. Organize friends and family who want to help provide care and support. Access local support groups or online communities to connect with other caregivers. If stress becomes overwhelming, seek professional help.
- Find time for yourself. It's normal to need a break from caregiving duties. No one can do it all by themselves. Consider taking advantage of respite care or help from family and friends to spend time doing something you enjoy.
- Visit your doctor regularly. Take time to get regular checkups, and be aware of what your body is telling you. Pay attention to any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness or changes in appetite or behavior. Ignoring symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.
The Alzheimer’s Association, provides support and programs to help:
- Alzheimer’s Navigator® – Creates customized action plans of information and support.
- Community Resource Finder – Allows caregivers to find local resources by zip coder.
- ALZConnected® - Connects caregivers with others to share common problems, challenges and potential solutions.
- Care & Conquer – Educational series which provides practical advice for caregivers, information on early detection and diagnosis and the latest research findings. Upcoming class:
- 24/7 Helpline – Offers confidential support and information by master’s level clinicians and specialists on a variety of Alzheimer’s-related topics. Help is available all day, every day at 800.272.3900.
This article was written by the Alzheimer's Association, St. Louis Chapter.
All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer.
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