Alzheimer's And Dementia: 6 Tips To Help Family Members Avoid Caregiver Burnout

Caregivers, especially family members, face intense guilt, stress and frustration. Here are 6 tips that may help you to maintain your emotional balance in what seems like a world that's turned upside-down.   

A recent study found one in three caregivers feel they are living in a high stress environment. At least half of them have less time to spend, with other family and friends.

When you are caring for a loved one that is sick (especially adult children caring for a parent) you may be facing a unique set of emotional obstacles. Your Mom or Dad, in addition to the loss of their memory may be, confused about the role reversals and angry at the person that is primarily responsible for their well-being.

1. Learn to Take Care of Yourself, Too.

If you are caring for a family member, you may sometimes put the physical needs of them ahead of your own. The guilt and stress you are experiencing may also be taking a physical toll. When you take care of someone else, don't forget about yourself.

You are probably making sure that your patient eats healthy. Don't ignore your own needs. Instead of maintaining a meal-time separation, you may want to share a few meals. If you are responsible for meal planning and shopping, make sure you provide nutritious meals for yourself.

Exercise is vital, too. Again, you are probably making sure your patient is exercising at their capability level. You need to maintain your own health and well-being by exercising.

If you are caring for someone who is still physically active you could take walks together. If you are able to get someone to provide care while you work out that's great. But if you can't get out of the house to exercise develop an in-home program.

2. Try to get Enough Sleep.

It's possible that you are experiencing insomnia. Perhaps your loved one has trouble sleeping at night, too. When you are caring for an Alzheimer's or dementia patient, it's wise to "baby-proof" the house.

If your loved one is still mobile, you may be afraid, whether you are awake or asleep, that they will simply walk away. This type of hyper-vigilance is common. There is nothing wrong with using a security system to keep your loved one "in." Baby monitors or an intercom can keep you connected at all times. You may sleep better knowing that everyone is safe and secure at night.

3. Avoid Too Much Isolation.

Your situation may be increasingly causing you to isolate from the outside world. It can happen slowly. Your constant focus on your patient may cause you to withdraw from your normal activities.

Make the effort to stay connected to other friends and family. The more isolated you are, the more your stress will increase. Try to stay active with your friends, your church or other family members. Don't give up on your hobbies.  Don't stop doing the things you love to do.

When you watch your loved one slowly start to fade, you may be tempted to give up on your own activities.  Now is the time to find new interests. Despite the difficulty, keep your life as emotionally, physically and spiritually balanced as possible.  

4. Find and Use all Available Resources.

Ask for help from family, friends and the community for your home care needs. If your family lives at a distance or won't agree to help, find out what the local and community resources are where you live. Investigate social security and other geriatric programs.

Find out if you can receive help through service providers, including home health aides, hospice, house cleaning services and home repair services. Check with your patient's medical provider, and faith-based organizations.

Look into adult day centers and see what it takes to qualify. There are also usually local groups that may deliver meals or help with transportation of your patient. See if you can get assistance to "child-proof" the house.

If you are turned down for help once, don't let it stop you. Apply again. Red tape can be frustrating, but these programs are there for people in your situation. Keep reaching out until you get some support.

 5. Don't Give Up.

If you are experiencing depression, sadness, problems focusing, prolonged hyper-vigilance, a sense of hopelessness, talk to a medical consultant.

Caring for someone, you love, is exhausting and the burnout rate is high.

During this emotional and difficult time, you will need to deal with your feelings. Talk to someone you trust. Seek support from those that are living in similar circumstances.

Don't be afraid to seek professional help.

6. Remember it's the Disease not the Person you Love.

It's hard to watch the person that you knew fade away. Your nurturing Mom may be acting angry. Your Dad may be experiencing delusions or refusing to talk.

The cruel reality is that this is the disease that they suffer from. Try not to be hurt by the actions and words of your patient.  They are "acting out" their symptoms not their true personality. Remind yourself in times of frustration and stress, that it is the disease causing these changes in their personality, the person that you love is not responsible.

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