Alzheimer’s caregiving can be a powerful and rewarding job, but it can be an enormous undertaking for one person to handle alone. Nobody is capable of worrying for another person twenty-four hours every day, seven days every week. The chances of burnout are high when caring for a person who has dementia. Therefore, seeking for assistance is helpful to prevent anxiety, stress, and financial exhaustion. — Friends and loved ones may be more willing to assist than you’d assume. Here’s how to reach out:

What’s happening?

In the beginning, you may be ready to provide and meet your loved one’s needs yourself. This may last for months or perhaps years, depending on how the disease progresses and your ability to cope with associated stress physically and mentally. As time goes by, your loved one will need more assistance with daily tasks such as eating, bathing, and going to the toilet.  

The physical demands of caregiving are high, and it increases along with the emotional toll. Challenging dementia-related behaviors can strain your coping skills and of even the most patient and understanding caregiver. 

This constant stress can also weaken your system. Often, you may not be getting enough rest and sleep, and your eating habits deteriorate as you prioritize your patient over your own needs. The toll of caregiving can increase your risk of depression even before you recognize it. You become so busy caring for your loved one that you may not notice you are drifting away from family and friends at the time you need them the most.  

How to share the load?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive sickness with symptoms that worsen over time. Even with the best intentinos, shouldering the load yourself can result in diminished quality and standards of care. If you are the primary caregiver for your loved one, do not hesitate to check with family concerning sharing several responsibilities. Asking for help should not be seen as an inability to do the job or weakness but as a sincere concern and desire to provide the best care possible by ensuring you stay healthy and energetic.

Caregiver burnout can occur when caregivers do not get the help they need. Avoid burnout with these tips:

  • Be realistic. The task of caregivers is demanding. You can only do so much and can not do it all on your own. Ask for assistance. This doesn’t make you incapable or selfish.

  • Test the waters. Request help and never feel bad about it. Caring for your loved one should be a combined effort. Engaging other members of the family or a support network can provide a more comfortable situation for you and your loved one. It also provides others the opportunity to give back and feel helpful.

  • Suggest specific tasks. Always keep a list of ways you need help so you can be ready with suggestions if someone offers. A neighbor can help you with chores around the house or maybe pick up your groceries. A relative may help you with sorting the bills or filling out insurance papers or help you care for your loved one providing you time to catch up with yourself.

  • Consider expertise and interests. If a family member enjoys cooking, do not hesitate to ask for help with meal preparation. If someone in your community can offer transportation to doctor appointments, ask.

You will never know how much help you can get from your family and neighborhood until you ask. Some people might refuse you, and that’s okay. There are still others who are willing to help but they do not know how until you ask and outline tasks.

When to ask for outside help?

If you cannot get ample help from friends and relatives, take advantage of community resources. You may enroll your loved one in any of the programs provided by your community and agencies near you. Look for support groups in your area that can assist with your caregiving duties.

Think of the method of caregiving as a marathon, not a sprint. Gather your resources and utilize every bit of help available so you can conserve your energy for the journey. Ultimately, you will realize that your efforts are not only paying off for your loved one but also for yourself.

Support Groups 

Support groups bring people together to share similar experiences and support each other on their caregiving journey. Knowing that you are not alone can help you feel less isolated. Support groups also help you make valuable connections with others facing similar challenges. Coping with dementia or a chronic illness can be scary. Having those sources of support can make illness more bearable and a caregiver’s role less lonely. 

When you first join a support group, you may feel more comfortable just listening and this is okay. Over time, you may feel comfortable sharing experiences and ideas that helped you cope with your situation.

You can join a monthly caregiver support group locally at Sunshine Clinic with Alzheimers Resource of Alaska. Contact Jayme at (907) 733-9262 for more information.

 


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