It’s both one of the most important and most challenging things most of us will do in our lifetimes – caring for a senior loved one afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease!
Those special people are our focus in this, the third in Senior Care Corner’s series of weekly topics to mark World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Our subject this week is something too often overlooked by family caregivers as they are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s – their own health.
You might not think you are a family caregiver, also called a carer, but you probably are. If you are taking care of a family member, friend, or neighbor by providing assistance for a health related condition or disability or merely aging and are unpaid, you are a family caregiver.
Being a caregiver can take many forms, such as making a meal, mowing the lawn, helping buy groceries, taking a loved one to the doctor’s office, or living with someone and meeting all their needs.
Family Caregiver Health Issues
A recent study says that 26.5% of all American adults today are family caregivers. That is a lot of us and we need to protect our own health so that we can continue to care for our loved ones.
Family caregivers may experience a number of health issues they would not if they weren’t being caregivers – or they experience them to a greater degree. These issues are faced by many family caregivers.
- Stress – both physical and emotional tolls can be great when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia
- Financial – personal spending to meet the needs of the ones you love can become overwhelming, especially if covering some or all of the cost of care needed by a loved one with a long term illness; can be worsened if caregiving interferes with your paying job
- Depression and isolation from usual lifestyle – often experienced by those who spend so much of the time caring for the needs of family members, especially when they need constant care
- Marital discourse and loss family unity – often the daily tasks of caring for others can cause the family unit to be unintentionally neglected and suffer as a result
- Caregiver burnout and guilt – all of the above and more take their toll on a family caregiver, especially over the duration of a long and progressive disease like Alzheimer’s
Care Tips for the Family Caregiver
Yes, caring for the family caregiver! That one person whose needs are so often overlooked but is the key to making so much around them work.
Here are some tips that can help family caregivers maintain the good health needed to give their best to those under their care.
- If you begin feeling any ill effects, please seek help. Don’t avoid your own health and well-being or you won’t be able to handle the duties of caregiving.
- Get regular health checkups and vaccinations. Schedule the appointments, but them on the calendar and make sure they are viewed as must-dos.
- Seek respite help either for an afternoon, weekend or vacation. Getting away once in a while, even for a short time, can work wonders in recharging a caregiver.
- Solicit family members near and far to help you continue to perform your duties.
- Connect with technology and devices that can make your job easier. Senior Care Corner regularly reports on devices and apps that can caregivers might find valuable — and we are always on the lookout for more.
- Seek out and attend support groups to learn and share with others to realize you are not alone. This can be either online or in person.
- Learn more about the disease suffered by the loved one under care and strategies to make the caregiving experience more effective and manageable.
- Check back next week for another Topic
We encourage you to find ways to care for yourself so you can enjoy the moments and the memories of your loved one afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and help them make their own lives better!