Helpful guides and caregiver resources are crucial for those who take care of elderly loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Resources
Stress seems to be almost a badge of honor these days, in both the workplace and at home: if we aren’t multitasking, texting, and dashing between commitments, we’re not getting enough accomplished.
For caregivers, however, this scenario is all too real — and stressful. In a recent Merrill Lynch study, 80 percent of Americans say caregiving is “the new normal”. While fewer than half of those 50+ believe they’re likely to need care at some point in their lives, the reality is, seven in ten Americans turning 65 today will need care for prolonged periods.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
Many people in midlife are caring for elderly parents or other loved ones in an invisible and underappreciated role. And the cost isn’t just emotional and physical; it’s also financial. The price tag for informal caregiving in the U.S. is a staggering $522 billion a year, according to a RAND Corporation study. If these family members and friends were replaced with skilled nursing care, the cost would jump to $642 billion annually.
The majority of these caregivers are also in the workforce, which means they’re losing income due to unpaid time spent caring for loved ones. Not to mention losing sleep, quality of life and relationships, and often their own health.
Clearly, caregiving is an essential need, so it’s equally essential that care providers know how to take care of themselves. Caregiver burnout is common, especially for those caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Symptoms of caregiver stress can include:
- Feeling tired all the time
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Overreacting, or feeling irritable and anxious
- Feeling numb, as though nothing you do matters
- New or worsening health problems
- Drinking, smoking, or eating poorly.
Self Care for the Caregiver
Beyond taking excellent care of your senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it’s vital that caregivers take quality care of themselves. This is why airline emergency instructions advise passengers traveling with young children, “Put your own oxygen mask on first.”
Here are nine strategies for dealing with caregiver stress in order to avoid burnout:
- Ask for help. Let family and friends know when you need a break. It might be something as simple as having them stay with your loved one while you catch up on errands or take a walk. Be willing to speak up, and to say “yes” when someone offers help.
- Get good quality sleep. We all require different amounts of sleep. Whether you function best on six hours or eight, restorative sleep will go a long way towards enhancing your outlook, helping to maintain your health and reduce stress.
- Seek support. Everyone needs a support system — especially people who work in service professions. A caregiver support group can provide validation and encouragement for what you’re experiencing, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations.
- Consider community care. Adult Day Centers and respite care for dementia patients can provide a family caregiver with the time off they need to feel refreshed and able to continue in their caregiving role. If memory care is the next best step for your loved one, community care will also provide the support to make the transition.
- Set personal goals. Do you yearn to eat healthier, take a dance class, or return to school for further training? Set a specific goal, then break it down into manageable steps and get started. There’s nothing like turning a dream into reality to infuse your life with new energy and purpose.
- Exercise! From walking to swimming to gardening, cycling to tennis to dancing, physical exercise is one of the best antidotes to stress.
- Prioritize self-care. Whether it’s a massage or a manicure, or dinner out with friends, self-care means doing something just for you that brings you joy.
- Relax about outcomes. Allow yourself to relinquish control. You’re doing the best you can as a caregiver. You can’t change the outcome for your loved one, but you can control how you respond day to day to whatever issues arise.
- Appreciate yourself. Caregiving is often a thankless role, yet crucial for the senior you’re helping. Even if your loved one is not able to express appreciation for your efforts (due to dementia or chronic pain, for example), know that you are making a difference in this person’s life. Applaud your efforts and commitment.
Digital Resources for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care
In the digital age, caregivers also have a wealth of online support. Here are a handful of essential resources to help (en)lighten your load:
- The Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Center: A portal with tools and resources on everything from dementia behaviors to care options, as well as financial and legal information.
- Alzheimer’s Reading Room: Created by Bob DeMarco, who was his mother’s longtime caregiver until she passed away, the goal of this award-winning site is to “help everyone better understand, cope and communicate with a person living with dementia.”
- ALZConnected: A virtual community of caregivers created by the Alzheimer’s Association, ALZConnected contains both message boards and solutions pages, enabling caregivers to connect with other caregivers on a wide range of topics related to dementia care — and find answers to challenges you may face.
- Community Resource Finder. A joint service of the Alzheimer’s Association and AARP, the Community Resource Finder allows a caregiver to locate local services, programs and providers, just by entering your zip code and selecting a category.
- AARP’s Caregiving portal. From housing options to benefits, legal and financial advice to home-based palliative care, AARP covers the key facets of caregiving for your loved one:
- Housing Options and Home Care (including adult day services, assisted living, Meals on Wheels and respite care)
- Benefits and Insurance (including long-term care insurance and Veterans’ benefits)
- Legal and Financial Issues (including power of attorney (POA) and Advance Directives)
- Home-Based Palliative Care (Pre-Hospice)
At Kensington Place, we care for your loved one as our own — and this includes ensuring that our caregivers are well cared for so they can provide the highest caliber of service.
Come visit us soon, and discover what sets Kensington Place Redwood City apart from other memory care communities.