Tips for Caregivers: Caring for Yourself
You may be so busy caring for the person with Alzheimer's disease that you don't have time to think about your emotional health. But, you need to. Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease takes a lot of time and effort. Your job as caregiver can become even harder when the person you're caring for gets angry with you, hurts your feelings, or forgets who you are. Sometimes, you may feel really discouraged, sad, lonely, frustrated, confused, or angry. These feelings are normal.
Here are some things you can say to yourself that might help you feel better:
- I'm doing the best I can.
- What I'm doing would be hard for anyone.
- I'm not perfect, and that's okay.
- I can't control some things that happen.
- Sometimes, I just need to do what works for right now.
- Even when I do everything I can think of, the person with Alzheimer's disease will still have problem behaviors because of the illness, not because of what I do.
- I will enjoy the moments when we can be together in peace.
- I will try to get help from a counselor if caregiving becomes too much for me.
Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
If you experience some of the signs of stress listed below, on a regular basis, consult your physician. Ignoring them can lead to depression or a decline in your physician health, making it more difficult to give care.
- Denial that there is a problem
- Anger at themselves or the person they care for
- Withdrawal from usual social activities
- Lack of concentration
- Physical or mental health problems
Be a Healthy Caregiver
Taking care of yourself is one of the most important ways to be a healthy caregiver.
- Know what resources are available. Adult day care, in-home assistance, visiting nurses and Meals-on-Wheels are just some of the services that can help you.
- Become an educated caregiver. As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills are necessary. Find information on alz.org or contact your local Alzheimer's Association.
- Get help. You are not failing as a caregiver by asking others for assistance. Seek the support of family, friends and community resources. Alzheimer's Association support group meetings are a good source of comfort and reassurance. Or you can join an online community.
- Take care of yourself. Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Make time for shopping, lunch with friends or even a golf outing. Take advantage of community services such as adult day care or in-home companion services to care for your loved one while you take a break.
- Manage your stress level. Stress can cause physical problems and changes in behavior. If you experience symptoms of caregiver stress, use relaxation techniques that work for you, and consult your doctor.
- Accept changes as they occur. People with Alzheimer's change and so do their needs. They often require care beyond what you can provide on your own. Look into care services such as in-home caregiver services and residential care.
- Do legal and financial planning. Consult an attorney to discuss legal, financial and care issues. If possible and appropriate, involve the person with Alzheimer's and other family members.
- Be realistic. Many of the behaviors that occur are beyond your control and the control of the person with Alzheimer's. Grieve your losses, but also focus on the positive moments.
- Give yourself credit, not guilt. You are doing the best you can. Don't feel guilty because you can't do more. Your loved one needs you, and you are there–that should make you feel proud.
Adapted from the Alzheimer's Association (www.alz.org)
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For further information on any of the above topics, visit the website of the Alzheimer's Association (www.alz.org).
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