By: Vee Cecil, Mynewwell.com |
Alzheimer’s disease is a diagnosis that affects not only the patients who must endure it, but also their loved ones. This is oftentimes especially true for the loving individuals who take on the role of caregiver, whether in the early stages or the more advanced stages of the illness. It’s not an easy job to take on, and at times, can feel overwhelming. But there are a lot of ways caregivers can take care of their loved ones and themselves. Here are a few ideas for coping with the stress of caregiving:
Create a routine for you and your loved one, and stick with it. Change can be confusing and even scary for those with Alzheimer’s. Establishing a dependable routine that the two of you can follow even as the illness progresses will provide comfort to your patient. This article from the National Institute on Aging offers advice on how to create a reliable routine, which should include waking and bedtimes, meal scheduling, and activity time.
Keep your loved one active. There will likely be days where it’s difficult for your loved one to feel inspired to do anything but rest, and that’s natural. But keeping physical activity as part of your routine will keep your patient physically healthy and increase levels of naturally mood-boosting endorphins. A low-impact activity like swimming may be especially beneficial, as it can be more fun than a walk around the block, and can also be a group activity that encourages your loved one to be social.
Take a break when you need one. Caregiving is, without a doubt, a full-time job. But every job well done requires periods of rest and rejuvenation. And breaks are critical when you provide permanent care for a loved one: They will help you avoid burnout and resentment of individuals who may not always be capable of showing their appreciation for your service. Be sure to take regular “me time” either by yourself, with friends, or with your loved ones.
Invest in extra help when you need it. Help for those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be part-time or full-time, but it may surprise you to find out that such help can also come in a two-legged or four-legged variety. More and more frequently, service dogs are being trained to assist folks with Alzheimer’s and dementia. These dogs can help with daily tasks—such as reminding your loved one when to take their medication—and also by offering an additional layer of protection by preventing your loved one from wandering.
If it’s two-legged help you need, ideally, you and your loved one will have made a financial plan for this option before the illness progresses to a stage where they’re unable to make these decisions. If you haven’t, don’t panic – there are means of receiving financial help, including veteran’s benefits, that can help pay for living assistance. This resource also offers additional suggestions on finding ways to cover the costs of care.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a selfless act. There are times when it may not be easy, but there are many ways to cope with your sometimes difficult situation. It’s important to remember that you’re allowed to feel stressed, and no one – especially your ailing loved one – expects you to have all of the answers all of the time. And no matter what, you are providing a compassionate service by offering your love and care.
Vee Cecil is a wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor. Vee is passionate about studying and sharing her findings in wellness through her recently-launched blog.