Anyone who has seen someone with Alzheimer’s knows there’s a lot of work that goes into caring for that person. From dressing to doctor’s appointments, the list can seem daunting. But what most people might not realize is that Alzheimer’s caregiving takes an entire team. These can be professionals or just loved ones.
Another thing people might not realize is that caregivers can suffer burnout or other mental/physical problems as well. Here is a list of things that promote a healthy life for those on the other side of the fence so they can care for their loved ones better.
1. Learn To Ask For Help
This is the biggest and most important one. Some caregivers take on a Superman attitude – thinking that they can or have to do everything themselves.
But this is just not possible. Remember when we said it takes a “team?” Well, it can include anyone you want. It can be something as simple as having another person side with the Alzheimer’s or dementia patient and quietly watch television with them while you sit and have a cup of tea or go do some laundry. There are meals, transportation, legal/financial issues, regular education to keep up with patient changes, and so much more.
Remember, no one is a failure for asking for help!
2. Support Groups
This is the second biggest suggestion. There are in-person or online groups of caregivers that can share all sorts of experiences or hacks that might make your life a little easier (even ways to find donations or money to help out even more). They are also there to listen if you just need someone to talk to. Finally, they might have resources you wouldn’t have normally been able to access.
For example, if two caregivers live fairly close, they can help each other out. Things like cooking might bring joy to one caregiver while the other dislikes it. You can share the load.
Also, it’s important to remember that no one in these support groups is there to judge. They’ve all been in (or are in) your shoes.
Side Note: If support groups aren’t your thing, there are churches and other places of religious worship that people find useful or comforting.
3. Take Daily Breaks
No, you don’t have to be hardcore 24/7. It’s okay to take a breather. As long as the patient is cared for, you can step back and take care of yourself. What you do is totally up to you, but here are some ideas…
- Go for a walk/get some exercise
- Visit some friends
- Go out with your partner or children
- Get back into any hobbies you love
- Meditate or practice mindfulness
4. Stay Healthy
Caregivers can have such intense tunnel vision for the other person, that they could start neglecting their own health. It’s vital to eat a healthy/balanced diet, keep active, and have regular visits to your own doctor.
And, when it comes to the mind, there are “mantras” you should have handy if you feel your brain needs some love too.
- I’m doing the best I can.
- Things don’t have to be perfect, it’s okay.
- I can’t control everything around me.
- Enjoy the happy moments because they are precious
- Any negativity I get is from the illness, not from the person I care for
- It’s okay to stick with what’s working now. But it’s okay to change later.
- I will ask for help if I need it.
5. Keep Reading
There is a TON of information on the internet (just stick to trusted sources). Any topic you can imagine, there is an article giving advice. Things like…
- Dealing with mood changes
- How to handle early/mid/late stages of the disease
- Activities and games you can do
- How to keep patients active
- Basic care like dressing and feeding
- Other medical problems that could show up
- Home safety tips
- How to talk about Alzheimer’s with children
These topics can be found at The National Institute of Aging site. It’s absolutely amazing and offers so much education. Another one is Alzheimer’s Association.
We won’t dive into these sites because it’s a true mountain of data. But we will say there are dedicated articles for caregivers as well (to take care of themselves too).
Alzheimer’s Caregiving Conclusion
If you find yourself having to care for a family member or loved one with Alzheimer’s, it will feel not only scary but overwhelming as well. This is normal. Feeling the weight on your shoulders is normal too. But you don’t have to go through it alone. Make sure you start building your support network early on. And, to repeat what we said before, it’s okay to ask for help!