5 Ways to Be a Healthy Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's is taxing. Here are some practical tips intended to assist caregivers in caring for themselves, too.

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- Posted on Nov 26, 2018

A husband/caregiver stands gazing out the window with his arm around his wife's shoulder

It’s easy to let your own needs fall by the wayside when you’re dealing with the daily challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Doing that can take a toll on your health and well-being. As Carlen Maddux learned, taking care of yourself is critical when you’re a family caregiver. Feeling refreshed—in body, mind and soul—helps you be the best caregiver you can be.

Say yes to help. Are you constantly stressed out and exhausted? Ask for help. Talk to family members, and come up with a solution together. Maybe they can pitch in more regularly. Maybe friends or volunteers from your faith community can offer a few hours of respite every week. If you’re considering professional caregiving help, call (866) 996-1085 or go to homeinstead.com/guideposts for a free consultation.

Stay informed. Learn about the stages of Alzheimer’s disease so you know what to expect and can plan ahead. Look into community resources: You can search by topic at eldercare.acl.gov. Research long-term care options. To be better prepared to handle your loved one’s dementia-related behaviors, read up on Alzheimer’s care topics and techniques. You can take an online course or find a free family caregiver Alzheimer’s training workshop near you at helpforalzheimersfamilies.com.

Find an outlet for your feelings. Caregiving can stir up complicated emotions. Keep a journal. Join a caregiver support group online or in your community. Talk to a pastor or rabbi, a therapist or a friend who’s nonjudgmental and a good listener.

Take care of yourself. Don’t put off your medical and dental appointments. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. Take some “me time” every day to do something you enjoyed before you became a caregiver. Exercise your faith to reduce stress from the inside out—pray, meditate or go on retreat, as Carlen Maddux did. To combat the isolation that often comes with caring for someone with dementia, make sure to get out of the house and socialize. (Interaction is good for your loved one too.)

Accentuate the positive. Make a point each day to note the things that went well. Studies have shown that spending just five minutes a day writing down what we’re grateful for can boost happiness and reduce depression. Focus on what your loved one can do, rather than dwelling on the difficulties. And don’t underestimate the power of a good laugh to ease tension and relieve stress.

For more tools and resources on caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, visit helpforalzheimersfamilies.com.

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