Coping with Alzheimer’s as a caregiver

Denying your unhappiness and insisting on putting on a brave face 24/7 is unrealistic.

Guía de Regalos

Coping with Alzheimer’s as a caregiver
Many caregivers of Alzheimer's patients suffer guilt associated with the inevitable lack of patience they experience after months and years of the disease's progression.
Foto: Ed Yourdon via CCL

So, it’s fallen upon you to be the caregiver of a loved one suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. The road that lies ahead of you is difficult, to say the least, but it’s a well-traveled path that more and more family members are trekking these days.

Taking its toll

Let’s face it, being a caregiver for anyone suffering from any long term illness can take its toll on you. It can drain you, affect your sleep, wear your patience thin, and take you to the breaking point. If you’re not careful, the overwhelming stress associated with caregiving can lower your immune system and lead to your own declining physical and emotional health and well being.

Many caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients suffer guilt associated with the inevitable lack of patience they experience after months and years of the disease’s progression. You’re not alone. This is perfectly normal, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Almost everyone experiences it.

Allow yourself to grieve

Denying your unhappiness and insisting on putting on a brave face 24/7 is unrealistic. No one’s suggesting you wallow in your sorrows, but pretending everything’s okay for the benefit of those around you, to the exclusion of your own true feelings, is counterproductive and will leave you feeling isolated and depressed.

There are a lot of conflicting emotions surrounding Alzheimer’s, and these need to be hashed out. You’re losingsomeone you love, one way or another. If you don’t have anyone in your life you can vent to about it, find someone quickly. Otherwise, you’ll end up angry and bitter before you know it.

Don’t go it alone

The number one piece of advice that caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients and people with other forms of dementia receive is, “Don’t go it alone.” Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. Not everyone has an extended family to lean on during difficult times, but that doesn’t mean that no one is there for you.

Support groups for Alzheimer’s are in abundance all across America, and they can easily be found through referrals from your family member’s health care provider and on the Internet. The support groups provide a wealth of information about the disease’s progression and can help you develop the coping skills you’ll need to survive.

Also, sharing your burden with others who are going through the same thing will help immensely.

Take a break

“You deserve a break today” isn’t just the motto at McDonald’s. When it comes to being a caregiver, it’s an important bit of advice. Try to do something nice for yourself. You may not be able to take an extended vacation, but you can schedule a spa appointment, meet friends for lunch, catch a matinee, or any number of things that will create a much needed diversion from the daily grind that is Alzheimer’s.

After a while, even things you formerly considered drudgery, such as grocery shopping, can seem like an escape. Take advantage of every opportunity to get out, even if it means getting a sitter to come in for a few hours once a week.

Note: If funds are an issue, many states, such as Arizona, will pay you to stay home and take care of your family member. A short caregiving course is required to be eligible for the program. It’s similar to being a CNA (certified nursing assistant), but it’s worth looking into.