Once per month I run a support group through the Alzheimer’s Association for caregivers whose loved ones are suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Approximately 90% of the time when the caregiver is new to the group they arrive exhausted and often in tears. How can caregivers minimize their stress?
First, recognize some of the common symptoms. If a caregiver is anxious, depressed, isolated or has health problems these are all red flags. Caregivers often feel completely overwhelmed by all of their responsibilities and many experience feelings of hopelessness.
Learning how to manage caregiver stress is very important. The caregiver should make sure they know what resources are available in their community. This could include Adult Day Care, Meals on Wheels or working with a home care agency. Education is also very important. Many of the caregivers in my support group find that learning more about Alzheimer’s, for example, helps them become more patient caregivers once they understand more about the disease either by attending classes, seminars or a caregiver support group. Finally, and perhaps most important, the caregiver must take care of themselves by following a healthy diet as well as getting adequate sleep and exercise. The caregiver needs to be mindful of the fact that if they don’t take care of themselves, they won’t be able to take care of anyone else.
Roslyn Paine, MSW, LSW
DignityFirst Health at Home Care Manager