The Caregiver Life: Equal Parts Love and Stress
Providing care for someone you love – be it full-time, part-time, or long distance – is the ultimate sign of devotion. It can come in many forms, like cooking, cleaning, helping a loved one bathe, or reminding them to take medication, and generally, people are happy to help. Often, caregiving is rewarding because the individuals in need of care were once caregivers themselves!
But sometimes, the effort required to juggle a caregiving role with work commitments, social engagements, and other family responsibilities can be stressful and the demands of caregiving can become heavier over time. As that happens, a person’s stamina begins to wane and the effect can be harmful to both caregivers and their loved ones.
In cases that involve Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, caregivers are paramount to maintaining quality of life as memory loss progresses. Unfortunately, caregiving in these cases also necessitates watching a disease gradually take away the person you know and love, making these caregiving situations uniquely devastating.
One of the most common challenges for caregivers of dementia sufferers is depression. Witnessing a loved one slowly become confused by activities to which they were once accustomed is undeniably difficult. It can ignite frustration and anger. It can lead to resentment or fuel anxiety about the future, and as these signs of stress build, caregivers often start to suffer alongside their loved one.
Presenting another challenge, memory loss conditions cause the relationships between loved ones and caregivers to change. For example, a caregiving son or daughter might be required to figuratively trade roles with a parent after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This shift can be overwhelming and lead to difficulties with daily concentration, cause social withdrawal or isolation, and result in extreme exhaustion.
As the emotional byproducts of caregiving manifest and multiply, a number of corresponding physical challenges may also arise for caregivers. They may increasingly feel less motivated to take time for themselves, resulting in sleep deprivation, headaches, or muscle tension, all of which heighten the risk of a variety of major illnesses. Caregiver nutritional needs often come secondary to the person in need of care, so weight fluctuates, immune systems weaken, and frequent digestive problems can emerge.
In the midst of the many potential challenges, it is important to remember that providing care is an act of kindness, love, and loyalty. And although caregiving is never easy, it is also important to know you are not alone.
Support groups, for example, can provide great emotional comfort and offer information about care strategies and coping mechanisms. Support groups can be condition-specific, relationship-oriented, and are even online. They can help you recognize and healthily address many of the physical and emotional stresses that can accompany caregiving.
Local advocacy groups and retirement communities that specialize in memory care are also excellent resources for finding support resources and information. They can help you plan for the future and help you organize and prioritize your loved one’s needs. They can also help point you in the right direction of resources when professional care becomes necessary.
Remember, an unhealthy caregiver can’t provide the best possible care, so don’t wait to take care of yourself too. If you are a caregiver or know a caregiver struggling with the stresses of caring for a loved one with memory loss , consider these resources:
The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center: http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementiaresidential-facilities.asp
Caregiver Support Groups: https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-support-groups.asp
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