Providing care for a family member or friend who is living with Alzheimer’s disease is a labor of love. The job, however, is a 24-hour commitment that can take its toll on caregivers. As the disease progresses, caregivers often find their daily tasks become more difficult, emotions can run high and the sense of loss as a loved one’s memory fades may be profound. There are ways caregivers can help themselves cope while ensuring loved ones receive the care they deserve. These tips can help:
- Get a coach – Local Alzheimer’s Association chapters often offer free coaching services for caregivers. This source of support can prove especially critical for those who are caring for a loved one at home. It can also, however, be quite valuable to those who loved ones are cared for in skilled facilities. If professional coaching assistance isn’t made available locally, talking to a therapist – or even a close friend – to share concerns, fears and frustrations can also prove helpful.
- Write it down – Sharing feelings with a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease might not always be possible, but caregiver feelings do need to be shared. Keep a journal of thoughts, observations and feelings to at least express what’s on the mind.
- Learn Alzheimer’s communication skills – Caregivers often find that communicating with and getting along with their loved ones changes as the disease progresses. Learn to cope with what is by not arguing, not worrying about correcting a loved one, avoiding topics that upset the loved one and simply living in the moment. By consciously choosing to avoid the tension, the stress related to caregiving can go down dramatically.
- Take time out – Caring for a loved one is a difficult task – Alzheimer’s disease or not. Taking time out to get a break, pursue a hobby or just enjoy a warm, sunny day can recharge the batteries. Caregivers can benefit greatly from giving themselves permission to live a little. Respite care at memory care facilities can allow caregivers to take some time off by having their loved one stay for a few days or a week as needed to fill in the gaps.
- Find a support group – It helps to be able to talk to others in a support group about your concerns in caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
Caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease isn’t easy and it doesn’t become more so over time. Those who come to terms with the disease and make their peace with it often find they are better equipped to handle the daily ups and downs.