Caring for a parent, spouse, sibling or other loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be a rewarding experience that builds your inner strength and character. Caregivers usually assume the care giving role out of love and a desire to help a family member in need. The selfless act of care giving is widely respected and will certainly make you a stronger and more confident in your ability to make a positive difference in another person’s life.
Usually, care giving begins with just helping out a family member, showing love and support by making his or her day a little easier. Alzheimer’s patients experience more severe symptoms with time, resulting in the need for increased care and supervision as time goes on. In time, the lifestyle associated with the “caregiver” role can sneak up on even the most active and driven caregiver. Though caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease brings with it numerous rewards, it is not uncommon for caregivers to find themselves overwhelmed at times as they strive to establish a harmonious balance between their own needs and the needs of their loved one.
An Alzheimer’s caregiver can become so consumed with the demands of caring for a loved one while upholding other daily responsibilities that his or her own health becomes neglected. The symptoms often experienced by full time Alzheimer’s caregivers, such as guilt, anger, exhaustion and depression, are so consistent and debilitating that they are collectively being referred to by some medical professionals as “caregiver syndrome.” Some experts suggest that simply acknowledging oneself as a “caregiver” and identifying with the role can lead a person to better deal with the responsibilities associated with caretaking. Realizing that care giving is not unlike taking on a second job can put caregivers in the proper mindset to provide the best care for their loved one with Alzheimer’s and for themselves.
As the world becomes more aware of the long term effects of caring for a loved one with dementia, more resources are becoming available to help caregivers effectively manage the responsibilities. Support groups and training programs for Alzheimer’s caregivers offer guidance that can lead to less stress for caregivers and delay the need to move their loved ones into professional full-time care.
If you have recently taken on the responsibility of being the primary caretaker for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to remain in tune with your own needs and emotions. You may feel angry or exhausted at times due to the unpredictable nature of Alzheimer’s disease. Realize that such emotions are common among Alzheimer’s caregivers, release yourself of any guilt caused by them and move on. Do not neglect taking time for yourself once in a while to regroup and relax. If your loved one requires constant supervision, have another friend or relative take over caretaking duties or take advantage of respite care at a local Alzheimer’s care facility so that you may create time for yourself. Establishing a balance between tending to your innate needs and those of your loved one will make you a better, more effective caregiver and affect a more positive environment for everyone involved.
By J. Trevey