If you're a caregiver for your parent with Alzheimer's and you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, consider these tips for coping with caregiver stress and burnout:
- Learn as much as you can about Alzheimer's disease. Although you might not want to think about it, you'll thank yourself later because you'll be ready to handle the many caregiving challenges associated with the disease.
- Take an active role in your parent's health care. Form a caregiving alliance with professionals experienced in issues related to Alzheimer's disease.
- Keep lines of communication open with family and friends. Tell them how you are coping as a caregiver. Your loved ones often want to know what they can do to help you as a caregiver, but they may feel uncomfortable asking, or they don't know what to say.
- Adjust your expectations by imagining what your parent is experiencing. Caregiving is a meditation on patience and understanding.
- Mind your own physical and mental health. Make time for sleep, exercise, proper nutrition, socializing, and time alone. You may have to ask for help, which is not always easy for caregivers to do, but helping yourself will ultimately help your parent.
- Watch for signs of caregiver burnout, which can include irritability, anger, anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, withdrawal from social activities, and denial about your parent's diagnosis or your caregiving responsibilities. You might also experience fatigue and health problems like ulcers, migraines, high blood pressure, or frequent colds and other illnesses.
- Join a caregiver support group for education, support, and connections to local services that can help you with your caregiving tasks. Check the paper for a list of local groups or contact your nearest Alzheimer's Association for information about groups near you.
- If you're having difficulty coping, consider seeing a mental health professional who has expertise in Alzheimer's and treating issues like caregiver burnout, depression, and grief.
Have you found other ways to handle caregiver stress and burnout? If so, what tips do you have for other caregivers? Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our email list to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on EldercareABC.com.
--Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D