Alzheimer’s disease turns a loved one into someone you have a hard time recognizing.Their behavior changes; their temperament changes; and they gradually lose the ability to make decisions and care for themselves. With all this going on, it is not surprising that the Alzheimer’s caregiver experiences a very high level of stress. This stress is continuous and will keep building as long as you are caring for your loved one. It can damage your physical and mental health. It is also damaging to your family member with Alzheimer’s because it can affect the way you interact with them.

Consult your doctor for advice on stress management, if you see these changes in yourself developing and worsening as you care for your family member with Alzheimer’s:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Sleeplessness
  • Exhaustion
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Health problems

As a caregiver, there are certain steps you can take to make your situation more livable. All of these tips will help you be a better caregiver. By extension, they will help your loved one because they will remove the damaging tension that could develop between you when you experience high stress and are in danger of burning out.

The first and most important step is to take care of yourself. You loved one is depending on you; so you need to keep yourself healthy. You need to get plenty of sleep. You need to make time for daily exercise. Include your loved one, if at all possible. Take a daily walk—you both will benefit. You may be tempted to just cook convenience foods because it might be just the two of you. This is a mistake: take the time to cook healthy food. You can even cook a meal the size you would when your house was full. You will cook once, and have a few days of leftovers that can be reused in other recipes without much effort. It is beneficial for both of you. Meals on Wheels is another good resource that is available to you.

Take some time for yourself. There are community services like adult day care or in home companion services. They can allow you to take a much needed break to go shopping for yourself, have lunch with friends, or even go to the movies to relax.

The dangers of living with escalating and ongoing stress have already been noted. You can consult your doctor if you notice the symptoms above. Relaxation techniques can be beneficial.

You will need to make legal and financial plans. You should make an appointment with an attorney to have the necessary papers drawn up to give you the legal right to make financial and health care decisions. You should include your loved one if possible and any other family members where appropriate. This needs your attention immediately. Do not wait.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s change and their needs will be different over time. As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills will become necessary. The internet is an invaluable source of information. You can browse or contact your local Alzheimer’s Association to investigate what resources are available. Alzheimer’s sufferers often require care beyond what you can provide on your own. Adult day care, in-home assistance, visiting nurses and Meals-on-Wheels are just some of the services that can help you and take some of the pressure off as the condition progresses. You must remember that you are not failing as a caregiver by asking others for help. Your family, friends and community resources are all avenues you should use for support. Alzheimer’s Association support group meetings can be a source of comfort and reassurance. It can be very beneficial to talk another who is sharing the same situation and really understands.

The majority of the behaviors that occur are beyond your loved one with Alzheimer’s control. The reality is you cannot control them either. Take comfort in the fact that you are doing the best you can. Don’t feel guilty because you can’t do more. It is okay to grieve about these changes and the loss of the person your loved one once was. But, you should concentrate on your love for them and treasure the positive moments. Your loved one needs you, and you are there for them. It is a difficult journey, and one that should make you feel proud for choosing it.

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