November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month – and caregiving is one of the hardest jobs out there. Here are some tips for sanity and success.
By: Sylvia Slezak
Did you know that according to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are nearly 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers in the United States? November has been designated as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month. We wish to recognize these special caregivers for the service they give in one of the toughest jobs there is.
Men and women who are caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s face a devastating toll, financially and physically.
► In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion.
► Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving at high or very high, and more than one-third report symptoms of depression.
► As many as 43.5 million Americans care for older parents, grandparents, spouses and other older loved ones.
When you are suddenly thrown into the role of caregiver, there may not be any warning of what is ahead. This is a job you may not have signed up for, but it seems to have evolved into a world of its own. At times, you may feel a sense of despair and hopelessness mingled with a sense of obligation and duty to your loved one.
Caregiving can be a fulltime job. The roles of child and parent are reversed and can be unsettling at times. Do you get angry and frustrated that you are in this position, and that your father or mother isn’t the dynamic, independent, self-reliant person he or she once was? Their memories are a bit impaired, and their bodies seem to need more rest.
Your caregiver role will change as behaviors change. There are circumstances you can and cannot control.
Ways to avoid stress
• Learn to control what you can and let go of what you cannot.
• Try the Q-TIP method: Quit Taking It Personally. That is a tall order. It’s much easier said than done, but it’s worth the stress relief.
• Remain patient and calm. Don’t argue or try to convince them. Realize there is no connection between what you are saying and what their mind is comprehending – or not comprehending.
• Accept behaviors as a result of the disease, and try to work through them. Focus on positive times as they arise, and enjoy the good memories.
• Realize the good you are doing and that the care you give does make a difference. Give yourself credit, not guilt, in one of the toughest jobs there is.
Tips for family caregivers
• Ask for and accept help and support from others. Communicate your specific needs.
• Take care of your own health so you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
• Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors and medical professionals.
• Take respite breaks often. Caregiving is hard work.
• Watch out for signs of depression, and don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it.
• Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
• Organize medical information so it’s up-to-date and easy to find. Make sure legal documents are in order.
Mind your body
As a caregiver, you sacrifice your time, life, energy, bodily needs, family and finances. The best thing you can do for the person you are caring for is stay physically and emotionally strong.
• Keep a schedule, and make sure you get plenty of rest!
• Designate a specific place and time for yourself, either alone or with others.
• Find that special place for meditation and reflection.
• Have interaction with your loved one.
Are you a caregiver, or do you know of one? Do you find yourself at wits’ end and in need of health care providers, counselors, physicians, physical therapists, medical/hospital equipment, transportation, financial assistance, respite care services, adult day care, massage and health spas, etc.? Visit CityOf.com, where you can Explore > Connect > Get More Local Faster to find local events and attractions, restaurants, outdoor activities, arts, music and entertainment and much more.
Note: Sources are available upon request.