The Importance of Caring for Yourself While Caring for Those with Alzheimer’s or other Dementia’s!
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other type of dementia impacts every aspect of your daily life. As an Alzheimer’s patient loses one ability after another, a caregiver faces tests of stamina, problem solving, and resiliency. Maintaining your emotional and physical fitness is crucial, not just for you, but also for the person you’re caring for. Preparing yourself, understanding your loved one’s experience, and seeking support from others can help you succeed on the caregiving journey.
Caregiving can become all-consuming. As your loved one’s cognitive, physical, and functional abilities diminish over a period of years, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and neglect your own health and well-being. Nearly all Alzheimer’s or dementia caregivers will at some time experience sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and exhaustion. Seeking help and support along the way is not a luxury for caregivers; it’s a necessity.
Just as each individual with Alzheimer’s disease progresses differently, so too can the caregiving experience vary widely from person to person. However, there are strategies that can help make the caregiving journey as rewarding as it is challenging. Learning all you can about what is happening and what to expect on the Alzheimer’s journey will not only help your loved one, but is also the first step towards protecting your own mental and physical health.
• Ask for help – Create a resource list of those who can help. Families, friends and meet new friends at support groups and educational classes.
• Learn or update caregiving skills – Classes often are free and sometimes offer adult day care during the class
• Make use of available resources – Alzheimer’s Association – web sites, organizations for the aging all have resource lists, short-term breaks – professional caregivers.
• Plan for your own care – write it down in your daily planner – treat it with the same priority you would a physician’s appointment for your loved one. Plan a movie – dinner with a friend, a weekly tee time if you
golf, garden, exercise – take time for you.
• Learn how to manage stress – Caregiving for a loved one with dementia can be one of the most stressful tasks you’ll undertake in life. To combat this stress, you need to activate your body’s natural relaxation response through techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise, or yoga. Fitting these activities into your life can help reduce the stress of caregiving and boost your mood and energy levels.
• Nutrition – a healthy diet is important for both of you. Take the time to make sure you are eating nutrient rich foods.
• Sleep – plan ahead to assure you are getting the rest you need – as adults we are not typically planning for rest periods, however, caregivers must get enough sleep – the task is monumental.
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