Role of Caregivers in Dementia & Alzheimer’s
A dementia caregiver is responsible for valuable care for a loved one/patient suffering from dementia. Their duties usually include- Assisting in day-to-day activities, such as grooming, dressing, cleaning, and preparing meals. Dementia caregivers can be family members as well as external skilled people who provide various types of in-home as well as long-term support.
Dementia/Alzheimer’s Caregiver Burnout
Researchers have labeled family caregivers of people with dementia as “invisible second patients” because they often get churned in multiple events while taking care of the recipients that they forget to take care of themselves. Such negligence in their lifestyle leads to caregiver burnout and takes a toll on mental issues.
Additionally, they are troubled by quarantine, physical ill-health, and sometimes financial crunches. Women, and spouses who do not seek any external help appear more vulnerable.
Dementia & Alzheimer’s caregiving can become all-consuming and lead to-
- Higher levels of stress
- Chronic depression and anxiety
- Constant worries
- Sleep issues
- Fluctuations in weight
- Feelings of anger
- Headaches, and body pain
Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress
#1. Ask for help
Let’s accept that we all need help at times. No one’s really a ‘one woman’ or ‘one man’ show! If you need help, ask for it. Don’t be shy. Accept the help of friends and family who want to support and provide care. Remind yourself that you are not perfect and that is okay, you don’t have to take all the burden on your shoulders.
Good emotional therapy can help you feel day-to-day "uplift” that you might miss otherwise.
#2. Don’t ignore your own diet
A good diet plan is a must for dementia patients and you must be already aware of that. When you know how important a healthy diet can be, why ignore your own habits? Include nutritious fruits, vegetables, and snacks in your daily routine and have meals on time. Skipping meals is not a good idea.
#3. Join a support group
Caregiving can isolate the individual from the rest of the world and elevate the feeling of loneliness. A support group can encourage the caregiver, and provide meaningful solutions for difficult situations. People in support groups are empathetic, understanding, and will never judge a caregiver. They might, in fact, prove to be the best people, best friends for caregivers.
#4. Spend time with loved ones
Staying well-connected with family and friends who can provide emotional support can be a good stress reliever. Even just taking a 10-15 walk with someone who is close to you can boost your happy hormones.
#5. Exercise to relieve stress (Light to moderate)
Take out time to exercise every day. Pick up an activity you love- Jogging, dancing, Zumba, yoga, bicycling, or any kind that you enjoy. Exercising reduces cortisol levels (stress hormones) and releases endorphins that foster relaxation.
#6. Plan and organize
Set realistic goals. If you break big tasks into small tasks and achieve one step at a time, you’ll realize that it gets easier to manage your day this way. Prioritize what needs to be done first, and pen down the daily task list in a journal. Set a routine. If you are feeling drained, take a day off and request a substitution for that day.
A caregiver may begin to feel overwhelmed after a certain time. If you are one of them, it will be best to take a break for some time. If you are a family member who can’t take a break due to caregiving obligations, please take external help, be it for a few days, but give yourself space to take care of yourselves first. To take care of others, start by taking care of yourself. And, if someone reading this article has a friend or family member who is a caregiver, spare a few hours/days to be their helping hand. Even just having a healthy conversation can make a positive difference!