Taking Care of the Caregiver: What You should Do For Yourself

Caring for a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia can be mentally and physically taxing. Often, when working to provide the afflicted with the quality and consistency of care they need, well-intentioned family members who don’t have the training and support they need will find themselves completely overwhelmed. As such, it’s in the best interest of all involved for caretakers to prioritize their own mental and physical well-being and reach out when they need help. 

Dealing With Your Emotions

Those caring for loved ones with dementia tend to experience a range of different emotions. In addition to profound feelings of sadness and empathy, caretakers commonly experience feelings of frustration and anger at their charges due to their unstable behavior. And because caretakers are aware that unstable behavior is unintentional, they often feel guilt and shame about their anger. This cycle of anger and guilt can have a deleterious effect on your mental health, especially when the you feel too embarrassed to express these feelings to anyone else. For this reason, the spouse or family member of an Alzheimer’s disease or dementia sufferer should reach out to friends, family or a qualified mental health professional to discuss their conflicted feelings. Having someone to talk to about the challenges of being a caretaker can mean the difference between maintaining equilibrium and falling into crisis.

Taking Time For Yourself

It’s also hugely important that caretakers take time away from their duties to engage in self care activities. Because the needs of a dementia patient can be so overwhelming, it’s easy to get locked into a cycle where all of your non-work time is spent providing care. However, by not taking time out to do things like reading a book, going out for a coffee with a friend, hitting the gym or even taking a few days off while someone else takes care of your mentally ill loved one, you run the risk of mentally and physically exhausting yourself. It’s understandable to feel guilty about enjoying a mocha went you have a loved one who can no longer take care of themselves, but letting yourself become completely worn down will negatively impact your ability to be an effective caretaker. 

Resources For Caregivers

If you are responsible for caring for a loved one who is afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important that you know you are not alone and that help is available.

The Eldercare Locator This U.S. Administration on Aging site allows users to find support for caring for mentally and physically disabled elders.

The Alzheimer’s Association This site offers those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease with support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The National Institute on Aging Through this site, you can find information on the latest medical breakthroughs regarding the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as professional caregiver training.

The Alzheimer’s Association of America On this site, you can contact licensed social workers to get answers regarding the treatment of someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia over the phone, through email, via Skype or live chat.