Staying Healthy as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, you are compassionate, supportive and intuitive. You have selflessly seized the opportunity to provide care for a loved one in need, and you are making a true difference in his or her life. This honorable endeavor, in turn, will undoubtedly affect many positive changes for you in your own life. Caring for a loved one can bring you closer to him or her and help you realize inner strengths you were unaware you had.

If your loved one has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you have likely been learning about the disease and what it means for your family. Fortunately, a lot is known about the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, and a plethora of resources are available to assist you in caring for your loved one. Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative disease; its symptoms affect people more as time goes on. Thus, your loved one is likely to need increasing support to accomplish everyday activities over time, and eventually full supervision and care. Caring for a loved one in such a capacity can at times lead Alzheimer’s caregivers to unknowingly neglect their own innate needs. To establish a balance that makes you a better caregiver and a happier person, it is important to develop a support network and to maintain a keen sense of self awareness. Here we examine some ways to ensure that you as a caregiver receive the support you need:

-Stay in touch with friends and family. Maintaining your social support group can work wonders for your state of mind. Healthy relationships with loved ones can fend off depression and keep you grounded. It is beneficial to have one or more other people who are willing to take over care giving responsibilities periodically so that you can enjoy some time for yourself and relax.

-Maintain contact with the doctor. Alzheimer’s disease can sometimes lead patients to be unpredictable. The doctor can answer specific questions you may have, and help you determine what symptoms are common among Alzheimer’s patients and what symptoms should be reported to a medical professional. Gaining a deeper understanding of Alzheimer’s disease from a doctor will benefit both your loved one and yourself as a caregiver.

-Explore support networks for caregivers. Whether you visit a local support group for Alzheimer’s caregivers or join one of the many online networks, associating with other people who can relate to your situation is an effective way to reduce stress and make new friends. Seek a group and environment in which you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts.

-Maintain your own healthy lifestyle. The same advice anyone should follow to combat stress and depression–getting exercise, eating a balanced diet, socializing and getting adequate sleep–also applies to taking care of yourself as an Alzheimer’s caregiver.

Though caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be highly rewarding, there will inevitably be times that are trying. As a caregiver, stay in tune with what your body is telling you. Do not hesitate to seek support when you feel you could use it, even if what you need is as simple as a coffee break with a compassionate family member. Taking care of your mental and physical health will not only make you a more confident, effective caregiver, but it will allow you to experience the true fulfillment that naturally arises from making life better for another person.

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