About 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, and that number is rising in line with the aging population. An estimated one to four family members act as caregivers for each individual with Alzheimer’s.
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is stressful and difficult. My family personally faced this challenge when my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. With an estimated 15 million people in the U.S. caring for someone with a dementia-type illness, chances are that you or someone you know is facing this challenge now or will in the future.
The role of caregiver can be daunting, especially if you lack valuable knowledge about the disease or are unaware of community resources available to you.
While it is often said that knowledge is power, it is just as important to remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Take time to educate yourself, ask for help and take advantage of available resources. Below are some tips that can help the caregiver with support:
Find an Adult Day Program
Hire a Visiting Nurse or schedule in-home care.
Have a family or friend coordinate Meal Delivery
Consider using adult day care or respite services to ease the day-to-day demands of caregiving.
Seek out online resources such as www.alz.org
Seek out help:
Seek support from your family and friends. Tell them what you need, don’t assume that they will know.
Schedule a check-in call.
Find a support group where you can share your feelings and concerns.
Study your day to see if you can develop a routine that makes things go more smoothly.
Use Relaxation Techniques:
These simple relaxation techniques can help you relieve stress. Try to find one that works best for you. These Techniques include:
Visualization (mentally picturing a place or situation that is peaceful and calm)
Meditation (which can be as simple as dedicating 15 minutes a day to letting go of all stressful thoughts)
Breathing exercises (slowing your breathing and focusing on taking deep breaths)
Progressive muscle relaxation (tightening and then relaxing each muscle group, starting at one end of your body and working your way to the other end)
Physical activity — in any form — can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Even 10 minutes of exercise a day can help. Take a walk. Do an activity you love, such as gardening or dancing.
Make time for yourself:
As a caregiver, it's hard to find time for yourself, but staying connected to friends, family and activities that you love is important for your well-being. Even if it's only 30 minutes a week, carve out a pocket of time just for yourself.
Become an educated caregiver:
As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills may be necessary. The Alzheimer's Association offers programs to help you better understand and cope with the behaviors and personality changes that often accompany Alzheimer's.
Take care of yourself:
Visit your doctor regularly. Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Making sure that you stay healthy will help you be a better caregiver.
Give yourself permission to grieve, be angry, or whatever emotions that come forward during the caregiver process.
Take the Caregiver Stress Check and get resources that can help. www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-stress-check.asp