How Can I Cope During Difficult Caregiving?

Issue 30 & 31.13

Caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease is perhaps one of the biggest commitments a person can face. It’s one filled with emotional stress and hard work that can also be meaningful and rewarding.

While Alzheimer’s disease usually begins gradually, it eventually causes people to become totally unable to take care of themselves. As a result, your role as a caregiver may mean making significant adjustments in your life. There will be enormous demands on your time and energy. Now is the time to look at what responsibilities can be shared with others and to develop a support network that includes family, friends, outside sources and your local Chapter Alzheimer’s & Dementia Association.

The following information will help you prepare for what is to come and how to cope so that you can continue to provide good care- for both the person you are caring for and yourself.

What are the effects on the caregiver?

Although your situation may differ, common experiences include:

* Stress symptoms such as fatigue, stomach problems, headaches & difficulty sleeping

* Emotional symptoms such as depression, tension, anger, guilt, grief and feeling overwhelmed

* Changes in your relationship with the diagnosed person, family and friends

* Changes in marital sexual intimacy

* Financial changes brought on by the expense of caregiving and loss of income

* Feeling alone and disconnected from friends & family

* Less time for yourself

You’ll probably experience different feelings at different stages of the disease. It’s important that you recognize & accept that your feelings are normal and work through them. You may want to seek professional counseling, attend support group or talk with you religious leader.

Why is planning important?

Having daily & long-term plans will help you manage the needs of the person with Alzheimer’s as well as your own needs. If possible, involve the diagnosed individual and other family members in planning activities and making decisions. Here are some things to consider planning:

Write a daily schedule: Establishing routines and activities will help you spend less time trying to figure out what to do and will give your loved ones a sense of security and stability. Allow for flexibility and be prepared to make adjustments based on the person’s changing interests and abilities. Schedule regular breaks for yourself, too.

Identify available resources.  Family, friends and community resources such as your local Alzheimer’s & Dementia Society can provide help and support. Make list of your needs will help you determine what kind of resources you will require now and in the future.  Information adapted from Naomi Feil’s Validation Breakthrough.

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