The Alzheimer’s caregiver
Published 12:22 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that affects more than six million Americans over sixty-five. The disease slowly robs those afflicted with memory loss, thinking ability, and even basic life skills. Problems with memory and short-term recall are among the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s.
Other early signs of decline include the inability to find the right words, trouble driving a car, paying bills, or cooking a meal. In addition, people with Alzheimer’s may get lost easily, ask the same questions frequently, and are confused by the simplest things. Eventually, they may need the help of a caregiver.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter once said, “There are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers. Caregiving is universal.”
Caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients provide transportation to doctor’s appointments, pick up and organize medicines, and keep tabs on their condition. They are the conduit of communication with the healthcare providers and advocate on the patent’s behalf, as well as help them with basic needs (showering, dressing, groceries, meal prep, housework, and more).
Being a caregiver can be one of the greatest honors of your life. But it is not without its challenges. Being a caregiver of an Alzheimer’s patient is a full-time job and can be stressful. As a result, you can feel lonely and frustrated at times. However, if you wish to give the best of yourself to your loved one, it’s essential to find time to take care of yourself.
The emotional and physical strain of caregiving can give rise to caregiver stress. Many caregivers provide help most of the day. And when they’re not caregiving, they are on call. But while caregiving can be very challenging, it also has its rewards. It feels good to be able to care for a loved one. And spending time together can deepen your relationship. It’s important to remember that to take care of your loved one, you need to first take care of yourself.
Signs of caregiver stress include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- A sensation of fatigue
- Weight change – gaining or losing
- Increased irritability
- Loss of interest in things that you enjoy
- Growing sadness
- Frequent headaches or other physical problems
- Abusing alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications
Too much stress can harm your health, especially over a long time. As a caregiver, you’re more likely to experience stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms.
Here are some tips to help you remain healthy:
- Accept help from family, friends, or members of your church.
- Maintain a healthy diet to ensure your wellness.
- Seek out a caregiver’s support group in your community to keep you from feeling isolated.
- Make time for yourself to read, meditate, connect with a friend, or engage in hobbies.
- Exercise. Try doing yoga or going for a walk.
When making “me time,” it’s normal to feel guilty at times. But understand that you are doing the best you can, making the best decisions at any given time. Taking a break for yourself can be one of the best things you do — for you and your loved one.
If you’re a caregiver who works outside the home (sixty percent of caregivers do), feeling overwhelmed is expected. Consider taking a leave of absence from your position. Eligible employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to care for relatives.
The demands on a caregiver, emotional and physical, will strain even the most resilient among us. So, you must take advantage of all the resources available to help you care for your loved one.
If you don’t care for yourself, you may not remain healthy enough to care for those you love.
If you have a healthcare topic of interest or a question, send me a note at Michelle.Fortune@slhnc.org.