Each year, 15 million Americans provide more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care for friends and family with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Each stage of Alzheimer’s disease requires a different level of attention and care. When you are acting as a caregiver for a loved one, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your loved one. We’ve compiled some self-care tips to keep in mind when acting as a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
Immerse yourself with learning as much as you can about the early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease when you are caring for a loved one in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This will help you to have a smoother transition easing into caregiving, as you’ll know a bit more about what to expect. As a caregiver, you will need to be surrounded by emotional support. Connecting with other caregivers, seeking counseling, and finding support groups are all ways to gain support during this time. Finding support that can evolve with you are your role as a caregiver develops will greatly help your mental health.
The National Institute on Aging shares the below tips for taking care of yourself while acting as a caregiver during the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease:
-Reach out to friends and family for help when you are in need of it.
-Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
-Join a caregiver’s support group in your local area.
-Take some “me” time at least once a day, each day.
-Spend time with friends and family.
-Keep up with your hobbies and interests.
-Get exercise as often as you can.
-See your doctor on a regular basis.
While you’ll need to do a lot of learning in the early stage of caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, the middle stage will navigate you towards being patient and flexible. The middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease can have you taking on a larger responsibility and being more hands-on in the care for your loved one as they may begin struggling to get dressed, speak, or begin acting in ways that are not characteristic to them.
The Alzheimer’s Association shares the below tips from other caregivers:
-Learn what to expect in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease so you can be as prepared as possible.
-Use a calm, relaxed voice when answering repeated questions from your loved one.
-Respond to the emotion, instead of the specific question. Your loved one may need reassurance.
-Use simple written reminders if your loved one is able to still read.
The late stage of Alzheimer’s disease can span from several months to several years, causing the main focus of your role as a caregiver to maintain your loved one’s quality of life.
The Alzheimer’s Association has some tips for caregiving during this stage:
-play your loved one’s favorite music
-read portions of books that are meaningful to your loved one
-look at old photos with your loved one
-prepare one of your loved one’s favorite meals
-sit outside with your loved one on a nice day
Though you are taking care of a loved one, it is important to prioritize your own mental health and wellbeing. You can’t take care of someone else if you are not taking care of yourself. Seek additional support and resources when you need them.
For classes and support groups, visit pascackmedicalcenter/bewell.com