Trying to communicate with a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can evoke a range of emotions – frustration, exasperation, despair, sympathy, and sadness are just a few. Looking after an Alzheimer’s patient requires both emotional and physical fitness, and prepping yourself for what to expect and how to handle tricky situations is integral to being a competent and supportive caregiver.
Caring for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming and all-consuming. In fact, research has shown that about 30 to 40 percent of dementia caregivers will experience depression, high levels of stress, or burnout due to the heavy responsibilities that come with caregiving. This means that seeking assistance from others is a necessity. This could come in the form of sourcing for professional help from counsellors, or talking to family members or trusted friends for emotional support. While it may be difficult to remember to put yourself first, tending to your own needs is, at times, more important than tending to others.
Aside from reaching out to family members or volunteer organisations to help distribute the load of caregiving, attending workshops or perusing caregiving books and resources can also assist you in learning more about behaviour management and the steps that you can take to overcome any obstacles related to caregiving. As the Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the difficulties you’ll face will also evolve and change, so keeping updated and learning from others who have experienced a similar process is essential to easing your burden.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed but don’t feel like approaching your family members or closed ones for help, then you may want to think about exploring the option of joining a support group. Talking about what you’re going through with other caregivers who are experiencing similar challenges can help reduce feelings of isolation and fear, as you will be able to take comfort in the fact that there are others who are in the same boat as you.
Being able to identify signs of caregiver stress is also important. Here are a few signs of caregiver burnout:
- Denying the fact that your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s
- Social withdrawal from activities that you used to enjoy with closed ones
- Experiencing exhaustion, sleeplessness and irritability
- Feeling anxious about the future and harbouring thoughts like, “What is going to happen if I’m unable to provide for my loved one when his/her condition worsens?”
- Constantly feeling angry at the patient
Once you’ve recognised the signs of caregiver stress, you can take the necessary steps to combat it, such as talking to a trusted friend or exercising more regularly, as this releases endorphins, which are also known as “happy hormones”, that can help improve your mood.
Because caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is without a doubt a challenging task, you should never feel as if you’ve failed, even when you’re attempting to deal with a setback. You are not alone, and you should not have to face these challenges alone either. Try to keep an open mind and carry a positive attitude. Most importantly, always remember that there is no problem in this world that is insurmountable if you have the right help!