Are you a Caregiver? You are not alone
If you are responsible for helping an older person manage daily life, then you are a caregiver. About 26 million Americans -- mostly female family members -- act as informal caregivers to a loved one. Caregiver efforts often increase to the point where it can stress a person to the limits.
What can caregivers do to reduce the burden? The Alzheimer's Association and other experts offer the following recommendations:
- Manage your stress level. High levels of stress, which are very common with primary caregivers, can cause physical problems. Use various relaxation techniques to ease the stress and consult your doctor.
- Take care of yourself. Caregivers can't ignore themselves in the process of helping their loved one. Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Take time out for shopping, entertainment and getting away.
- Become an educated caregiver. Find out where there are support groups or contact your local Alzheimer's association to learn more about how to cope.
- Be realistic. Many of the behaviors that occur with Alzheimer's disease are beyond your control and the control of your loved one. Yes, you can grieve, but you must also focus on the positive moments.
- Do legal and financial planning. Consult an attorney and other specialists to discuss legal, financial and medical issues. These decisions need to be tied up sooner rather than later.
- Give yourself a break. This is considered the most important step - and the one that you can least ignore. It may mean exploring home care, adult day care options or respite services. Home care may include companion services, a home health aide who can assist in helping with the activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, toileting and feeding), homemaking services to help around the house, or skilled care to assist with medication and other medical services. It can be live-in or hourly. Adult day care may offer music and art programs for the Alzheimer's patient. Respite services can allow the caregiver to re-fresh her batteries by going away for the day or taking a much-needed weekend break.
- Don't be a martyr. If at all possible, don't do it alone. You can't live like this for too long. Seek the support of family, friends and community resources