Care ADvantage, a free quarterly magazine for caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses
What it really takes to be a caregiver for Alzheimer’s and related diseases
Alzheimer’s disease can be catastrophic not just to the victim, but also to the family, friends, and caregivers surrounding him or her. Alzheimer’s and other related diseases can cause changes in personality and behavior that can take an emotional and physical toll on the people closest to the patient. Additionally, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can often involve 24-hour care, which adds to the burden of caregiving. If someone close to you has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you may be wondering if you have what it takes to be a caregiver for Alzheimer’s and related diseases patients. In this article, we’ll discuss some qualities that make for not only a good caregiver but also one that can handle caregiver stress in a reasonable way.
- Education -
Research has shown that the best caregivers are those that have a firm base of knowledge about the disease. They should be familiar with how Alzheimer’s disease affects patients, how to react to common symptoms, and ways to go about improving a patient’s social support.
A recent study conducted at New York University School of Medicine found that giving caregivers an in-depth education about Alzheimer’s led to an increased ability to care for patients with the disease. Alzheimer’s is a constantly changing disease; new symptoms arrive regularly. The more a caregiver knows about what to expect, the less frequently they will experience a stressful surprise. Being an educated caregiver also gives you a wider range of caregiving skills. This allows you to cope more readily with changes in personality and new symptoms.
It’s also important to be educated so you’re familiar with the resources that are available to you and your patient. You may be able to take advantage of multiple resources, such as in-home assistance, meal delivery, or visiting nurses, if you’re familiar with the programs.
- An ability to get away -
Not every caregiver can get away from the situation physically, so it’s at least important you can do so mentally. It may take a concerted effort, but you should try to maintain a connection to friends and family. It’s also important to continue finding time to do the things you enjoy, even if you can only do so for short periods of time.
Another way to distance yourself from your stresses is to use relaxation techniques. Becoming skilled in exercises like meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation can be an invaluable asset to being a good caregiver.
- A willingness to seek out help -
There’s no better way to get burned out as a caregiver than by trying to do it all yourself. Whether it’s through online message boards, support groups, or visiting nurses, you need to maintain a strong structure of support. There are many resources out there available for the caregiver who’s willing to seek them out, so take advantage of them.
Being a caregiver for Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses is not easy. However, with the proper education, an ability to relax, and a strong support system, you can maintain your own sanity while coming to the aid of someone close to you.