The demands of caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia can be overwhelming. If this stress is left untreated, it can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind — eventually leading to burnout.
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress include anxiety, depression, irritability, and trouble concentrating. Feeling tired and run down, difficulty sleeping, and overreacting to minor situations are other common symptoms.
Remember, you won’t be able to care for someone if you don’t take care of yourself. Some helpful tips to consider:
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Friends and family often want to help but do not necessarily know how you are feeling or what you need. Spread the responsibility as much as possible. Assign specific tasks to those willing to help. Accept help when offered and let others feel good about supporting you.
Tip: Online calendars (Google Calendar and iCalendar) are good ways to share important tasks and appointments.
Give Yourself Respite Breaks
As a busy caregiver, leisure time may seem like an impossible luxury but it is important to allow yourself permission to rest and do things that you enjoy on a daily basis. Ask a friend or family member to take over for a bit so that you can get out of the house, socialize, take in a movie or participate in anything that boosts your spirits.
Tip: Local county governments will typically have an aging & elder care website with a list of resources.
Take Care of Your Own Health
Stay on top of your own doctor’s appointments in addition to those of your loved one. Be sure to exercise, meditate and eat well. Exercise and meditation are very powerful stress relievers. Nourishing your body with healthy food gives you energy and focus. Be sure to get enough sleep so that your mood, productivity and ability to handle stress do not suffer.
Tip: 30 minutes of daily physical activity (fast walking, jogging) reduces stress hormone levels in the body.
Join A Support Group
A caregiver support group connects people facing similar challenges and reduces your sense of isolation. Such groups are an effective way to form new friendships, share your feelings and learn tips for improving your situation.
MyBrainTest sponsors a free online support group for caregivers and people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
Local Alzheimer’s Association chapters also will have a list of support groups near you.
Bottom Line: Take action to support your own needs as a caregiver!