We all get overwhelmed. Claire Day, from the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter, has some tips for handling the stress that can come with being a loving and dedicated caregiver.
Self Care and Dementia
by Claire Day
If I had a dollar for every time I have said that to a family caregiver I might have enough money to cure dementia. It’s not that caregivers don’t listen or even understand it, but as we care for someone else our priorities shift from ourselves to another human and with that shift, our own self-care is compromised. But the reality of neurological degenerations is that they are progressive and will change over time. That change creates a need for caregivers to provide an ongoing and consistent increase in direct care for that person, taking away from their own.
There are some simple things you can do to keep self-care in mind:
1. Identify community resources.
There are a number of organizations and partners in the area that provide support, information, referrals and services, in some cases 24 hours a day. Start with a simple web search for organizations and community resources.
2. Understand what types of services can help you.
Know that our community has a wide range of services and support to help you along the way. Some of these resources include the Alzheimer’s Association (800.272.3900) toll-free Helpline, an Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration support group where you can connect with other caregivers, or an education program such as the Penn FTD Caregiver Conference to learn caregiving tips, disease specifics and coping mechanisms.
3. Remember the web is your friend.
Use the web to identify services and opportunities in your neighborhood. Connect with others through online forums such as alzconnected.org, alzheimersnavigator.org or communityresourcefinder.org. These sites serve people with Alzheimer’s disease and related degenerations.
4. Identify your network.
It takes a village to care for someone with dementia. Most people want to help but don’t know how, so identifying those in your network— friends, family, healthcare professionals, neighbors and colleagues— is essential to protecting your own health and well-being.
When I travel by plane, one thing always stays with me: while listening to the safety instructions they reiterate to passengers that in case of emergency, take care of you before assisting others. At the Alzheimer’s Association, we are here 24/7 to listen, support, provide resources and help you plan each part of your journey. You are not alone. Our organization, like many others in the community, is here. Reach out.
For more information, contact our organization at 800.272.3900 or online at www.alz.org/delval.
Alzheimer’s Association 10 Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
1. Denial about the disease and its effect on the person who has been diagnosed.
“I know Mom is going to get better.”
2. Anger at the person with dementia or frustration that he or she can’t do the things they used to be able to do.
“He knows how to get dressed — he’s just being stubborn.”
3. Social withdrawal from friends and activities that used to make you feel good.
“I don’t care about visiting with the neighbors anymore.”
4. Anxiety about the future and facing another day.
“What happens when he needs more care than I can provide?”
5. Depression that breaks your spirit and affects your ability to cope.
“I just don’t care anymore.”
6. Exhaustion that makes it nearly impossible to complete necessary daily tasks.
“I’m too tired for this.”
7. Sleeplessness caused by a never-ending list of concerns.
“What if she wanders out of the house or falls and hurts herself?”
8. Irritability that leads to moodiness and triggers negative responses and actions.
“Leave me alone!”
9. Lack of concentration that makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks.
“I was so busy, I forgot my appointment.”
10. Health problems that begin to take a mental and physical toll.
“I can’t remember the last time I felt good.”